French Institutions

Number of abortions: France leads European countries

Abortion: the French exception

By Grégor Puppinck1709553300000

The debate on the constitutionalization of abortion is strangely distorted, as if the essential question were not to be asked. Those in favor of constitutionalization argue that it is necessary to protect against the hypothetical threat of abortion being called into question. Opponents put forward legal arguments.

But these arguments miss the point. They omit the very fact of abortion, and the object that is its victim. But it's agreed not to talk about this reality any more. They also omit the material reality of abortion, which we should be able to face up to: what are the causes and consequences of abortion, and how do we compare with other European countries? We'll see that France is an exception, for the worse.

Twice as many abortions in France as in Germany

According to Eurostat, France holds the European Union record for the number of abortions performed each year. In 2022, there will be 320 abortions per 1,000 births, according to DREES (2023), putting France well ahead of Germany and Switzerland, which had 129 and 125 abortions per 1,000 births respectively (Eurostat, 2020).

Not only is the number of abortions in France the highest in Europe, it's not falling. We have gone from 202,180 abortions in 2001 to 234,300 in 2022, the highest ever. In contrast, most of our neighbors have significantly reduced their recourse to abortion. According to the latest available Eurostat data, abortion use is falling in all European countries except France, the UK and Spain. This decline is not due to population ageing alone, as the rate of abortions per birth has fallen considerably.

Only Bulgaria still has an abortion rate equivalent to that of France.

The rate has fallen in the former Communist countries. Romania, for example, went from 400 abortions per 1,000 births in 2014 to just 160 in 2020. Similarly, in Western Europe: between 2001 and 2021, the abortion rate fell from 151 to 119 per 1,000 births in Germany, and from 266 to 159 abortions per 1,000 births in Italy (according to the German and Italian national statistics institutes). Since 2000, the total number of abortions has been halved in Italy to 63,653, and by 30% in Germany to 94,596 in 2023, according to Eurostat.

Comparison with our European neighbors shows that France could do much better, without even changing the law. In fact, that's what the French want, since 73% of them believe that society should help women to avoid abortion, according to a 2020 IFOP survey. This is also what France is committed to. At the 1994 Conference on Population and Development, which has remained a benchmark in international law, France pledged, along with the other members of the United Nations, to "reduce recourse to abortion" and to "take appropriate measures to help women avoid abortion".

Abortion no longer "compensated" by births

For a long time, politicians did not worry about this French exception, because the high abortion rate was said to be offset by an equally high birth rate. This is no longer the case: births are falling, while abortions are on the rise. Since 2010, births have fallen by 20% to reach 678,000 in 2023, while the fertility rate is still falling at 1.68 children per woman. Overall, it has been below two children per woman since 1975, the year abortion was legalized. According to INSEE, immigration now accounts for "almost three quarters of the population increase" in France.

Abortion caused by poverty

Rather than glorifying abortion in the Constitution, we should be looking at the causes of its increase in France. One of them, generally ignored, is the increase in poverty. All sociological studies demonstrate that the poorer and more isolated a woman is, the greater her risk of having an abortion. According to DREES, single women are 37% more likely to have an abortion than women in couples. As for women in the poorest 10%, their risk of having an abortion is 40% higher than that of the richest 10% of women, for the same age group and marital status. This social determinism of abortion is further confirmed by the IFOP survey, which shows that half of French women believe that "material situation" is "the main influence that pushes a woman to resort to abortion".

When we realize that abortion is often caused, and even forced, by poverty and loneliness, we understand that it can cause real suffering for those who undergo it. Here again, the studies bear this out. Abortion is linked to an increased risk of depression, drug or alcohol addiction, suicidal thoughts, etc.[1] 92% of women say that abortion leaves traces that are difficult to live with, and the figure is 96% in the 25-34 age group (IFOP).

Faced with such a picture, the attitude of political leaders is hard to understand. How can the left ignore the social reality of abortion, and fail to see the misery? And why is the right so timid, when there is so much good to be done? This is perhaps the greatest French exception in this area: the "abortion taboo", which prevents us from thinking and acting reasonably. And it is this taboo that we are now proposing to engrave in the Constitution, to make it an indisputable principle.


[1] See in particular the study by P. K. Colman, "Abortion and Mental health: quantitative synthesis and analysis of research published 1995-2009, The British Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 199, no. 3, 2011.

For the Protection of Every Human Life
Read the full text of the petition


Cookies & Privacy

There is no advertising for any third party on our website. We merely use cookies to improve your navigation experience (technical cookies) and to allow us to analyze the way you consult our websites in order to improve it (analytics cookies). The personal information that may be requested on some pages of our website (subscribing to our Newsletter, signing a petition,  making a donation...) is optional. We do not share any of this information we may collect with third parties. You can check here for our privacy & security policy for more information.

I refuse analytics cookies