French 'Abortion Pioneer' Dead at 89

Simone Veil was a driving force behind France's legalization of abortion
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2017 12:50 PM CDT
French 'Abortion Pioneer' Dead at 89
In this 1974 photo, French Health Minister Simone Veil speaks about abortion law at the French National Assembly in Paris.   (AP Photo/Eustache Cardenas, File)

Simone Veil, who lost her parents and brother during the Holocaust and went on to become one of France's most popular politicians, per NPR, has died at 89. Veil survived Auschwitz as a teen and went on to study law and enter politics after the war. As health minister in the 1970s, she worked to ease restrictions on the use of contraception and to legalize abortion; when it was ultimately legalized in France in 1975, the legislation was known as "Veil's Law." In 1979, she was the first person to be elected president of the European Parliament in a direct vote of lawmakers. She was also the first female president of the parliament, the New York Times reports.

In her other public service roles, including as an official in the Justice Ministry, Veil drafted legislation that aided people with disabilities and disadvantaged children; barred discrimination; improved living conditions for female prisoners; and expanded health benefits. Following her time in the parliament, she served on France's Constitutional Council, ultimately remaining in public office until 2007, the Guardian reports. The following year, she was elected to the Académie Française—a rare honor for a politician. The 40-member body is the authority on the French language. Veil, who had three children with her late husband, died at her home, according to her son. (Read more obituary stories.)

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