Article published in Causeur on the 5th of July 2017.
The death of Simone Veil is an opportunity for some media press to present her as a militant for “the right to abortion”. This is at best a contradiction; at worst a lie. Simone Veil indeed explicitly affirmed “that even if it [the law of 1975] did not prohibit it anymore, it did not create a right to abortion”. In her opinion, abortion remained a necessary evil that needed to be, even though sometimes necessary, “avoided at all cost”.
Abortion: a neccessary deterrent
Defending her bill before the National Assembly on the 26th of November 1974, Simone Veil insisted: “No woman resorts to abortion lightheartedly. Just listen to women. It has always been a tragedy and it will remain a tragedy. Therefore, though this Bill takes into account the existing factual situation, though it accepts the possibility of an abortion, the ultimate objective is to control it and, as far as possible, to dissuade women.”
The need to dissuade recurred like a leitmotif in Simone Veil's speech. The repeated purpose of the law was to assert the exceptional character of abortion: “I say unequivocally that abortion should remain an exception, the last resort for hopeless situations.”
One must note that all parliamentarians who spoke in favour of the law shared the same point of view, regardless of their political affiliation.
However, forty years later, all the safeguards established by the Veil Law have been gradually abolished: no refund by the national health service, prohibition of incitement to abortion, psychological and social counselling and information given to women to discourage them from aborting, parental consent for minors, threshold of 10 weeks of pregnancy, seven-day cooling-off period, abortion only practiced by a doctor in a hospital, and even in some cases the right to conscientious objection of doctors and paramedics; all these have been suppressed one after the other.
The aim of such measures was to protect women, and “to make (them) aware of the fact that abortion is not a normal or ordinary act, but a serious decision that cannot be made without weighing the consequences, and that it is better to avoid it at all cost”. Simone Veil insisted on the fact that abortion is an act “which society tolerates but can neither take in charge nor encourage”.
The “Veil law” established no right to abortion
To pretend that abortion is a right, moreover a fundamental right, is clearly excessive and expressly against the law of 1975. It cannot be said more clearly that the principle is the respect for life beginning from conception, abortion being just an exception to this principle, subject to strict conditions.
The stated goal of the Veil law was to dissuade women from aborting, not to promote a right. However, all the safeguards, all the means that could enable effective dissuasion were methodically removed. The Veil law was thus resolutely diverted and recovered as a basis for a so-called right to abortion, contrary to the express will of both Simone Veil and of the legislator of the time.
Asserting that Simone Veil promoted a right to abortion amounts either to using her against her own sayings, or to presenting her as a malignant hypocrite who would have willingly betrayed the MPs in order to achieve her goals. In both cases, it betrays her memory.