FRANCE. Law No. 79-1204
of 31 December 1979 and related laws. (Journal Officiel,
No. 1, 1 January 1980, p. 3.)
Law No. 75-17 on the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy
first went into effect on 18 January 1975 for a five year trial
period after its adoption by Parliament on 20 December 1974 and
a successful test of its constitutionality. Because new legislation
became necessary at the end of 1979, another law was passed by
the National Assembly by a vote of 271 to 211 and by the Senate
by 155 to 113 with 12 abstentions. It went into effect on 31
Law No. 79-1204 of 31 December 1979 Concerning the
Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy has amended the previous law
on the subject, dated 17 January 1975 (see A, below), the Code
of Public Health (see B, below), and the Penal Code (see C, below).
In addition, it contains provisions concerning the newly constituted
Parliamentary Delegation on Demographic Problems (see D, below).
Thus, the basic provisions of the French law on abortion after
the reforms of 1975 and 1979 are contained in four statutes or
codes complementing each other, as follows:
Law No. 75-17 of January 1975, concerning the Voluntary
Termination of Pregnancy, as amended by Law No. 79-1204 of 31
December 1979, reads in part as follows:
1. The law guarantees the respect of every human
being form the commencement of life. There shall be no derogation
from this principle except in cases of necessity and under the
conditions laid down by this Law.
The teaching of this principle and its consequences,
the provision of information on the problems of life and of national
and international demography, the education towards responsibility,
the acceptance of the child in society, and family-oriented policy,
are national obligations. The State, with the co-operation of
territorial communities (collectivitiés territoriales)
implements these obligations and supports initiatives towards
13. The voluntary termination of pregnancy must under
no circumstances constitute a means of birth control. In this
connexion, the government shall take all the measures necessary
to promote information on birth control on as wide a scale as
possible, notably by the universal establishment, within maternal
and child care centres, of family planning or education centres,
and by the utilization of all information media.
The education (formation initiale) and practical
training (formation permanente) of physicians, midwives, and nurses
(male and female) shall include instruction concerning contraception.
14. Every family planning or education centre established
within a maternal and child care centre shall be provided with
the necessary means for informing, counselling, and assisting
a woman requesting a voluntary termination of her pregnancy.
16. The report on the demographic situation in France,
submitted annually to Parliament by the Minister responsible for
Population Affairs in pursuance of Law No. 67-1176 of 28 December
1967, shall cover developments relating to the socio-demographic
aspects of abortion.
In addition, the National Institute for Demographic
Studies shall analyse and publish, in conjunction with the National
Institute of Health and Medical Research, statistics compiled
on the basis of the notifications provided for in Article L. 162-10
of the Public Health Code.
Chapter III bis of Book II, Title I of the
Code of Public Health, as amended by Article 4 of Law No. 79-1204,
reads as follows:
Voluntary termination of pregnancy performed before
the end of the tenth week
Article L. 162-1. A pregnant
woman whose condition places her in a situation of distress may
make a request to a physician for the termination of her pregnancy.
The termination may be performed only before the end of the tenth
week of pregnancy.
Article L. 162-2. A voluntary
termination of pregnancy may be performed only by a physician.
The procedure may be carried out only in a public
hospital establishment or in a private hospital establishment
conforming to the provisions of Article L. 176.
Article L. 162-3. A physician who has been approached
by a woman with a view to the termination of her pregnancy is
required from the time of her first visit, to:
(1) inform her of the medical risks to herself
and to her future maternity, and of the biological seriousness
of the operation requested by her;
The conditions under which the Departmental Directorates
of Health and Social Affairs are to undertake the preparation
and distribution of the information folders intended for physicians
shall be defined by an order (un arrêté).
Article L. 162-4. A woman
who considers herself to be placed in the situation referred to
in Article L. 162-1 must, after completion of the formalities
prescribed in Article 162-3, consult a family information, counselling,
or advisory establishment, a family planning education centre,
a social welfare service, or any other approved situation, which
shall furnish her with a certificate to the effect that the consultation
has taken place.
This consultation shall consist of a private interview
during which the woman shall be provided with assistance and advice
appropriate to her situation, as well as the necessary means to
resolve the social problems posed, especially with a view to
enabling her to keep her child. On this occasion she shall be
supplied with the names and addresses of persons who, either as
individuals or acting on behalf of organizations, may be able
to provide women and couples facing problems of how to accept
and raise a child with moral or material assistance.
With the exception of public hospitals (l'accueil
de l'enfant), the above consultations may not be undertaken inside
such establishments where voluntary terminations of pregnancies
The staff of the institutions referred to in the
first paragraph shall be subject to the provisions of Article
378 of the Penal Code.
Wherever possible, both partners shall participate
in the consultation and in the decision to be taken.
Article L. 162-5. Should
the woman repeat her request for pregnancy termination after the
consultations referred to in Articles L. 162-3 and L. 162-4, the
physician must ask her to give written confirmation; he may not
accept such information before a period of one week has elapsed
following the woman's initial request except in cases where
there is a risk that the period of ten weeks might be exceeded
the physician being the sole judge of the propriety of his decision.
Moreover, this confirmation may not be given earlier than two
days after the consultation provided for in Article L. 162-4,
which time may be included in the period of one week provided
Article L. 162-6. If confirmation
is forthcoming, the physician may himself perform the pregnancy
termination under the condition laid down in the second paragraph
of Article L. 162-2. Should he not perform the abortion himself,
he shall return the request to the woman so as to enable her to
present it to a physician of her choice; he shall likewise furnish
the woman with a certificate to the effect that he has complied
with the provisions of Articles L. 162-3 and L. 162-5.
The director of the hospital establishment to
which the woman requests admission with a view to the voluntary
termination of her pregnancy is required to obtain and to preserve,
for a period of not less than one year, certificates confirming
that the woman has complied with the consultation procedures prescribed
in Articles L. 162-3 through L. 162-5.
Article L. 162-7. If the
woman is an unmarried minor, the consent of one of the persons
exercising parental authority or, where applicable, of her legal
representative, shall be required.
This consent shall be in addition to the consent
of the unmarried minor, which must be given outside of the presence
of her parents or legal representative.
Article L. 162-8. In
no case shall a physician be required to perform a voluntary termination
of pregnancy; he must, however, not later than the time of her
first visit, inform the woman of his refusal. He is, moreover,
required to meet the obligations of Articles L. 162-3 and L. 162-5.
No midwife, nurse, or member of the allied health
professions shall be required to assist in a pregnancy termination.
A private hospital establishment may refuse to allow
voluntary terminations of pregnancy to be performed on its premises.
However, where the establishment has applied to participate
in the provision of the public hospital service or has concluded
a concession contract under the terms of Law No. 70-1318 of 31
December 1970 providing for the reform of the hospital system,
such a refusal is permissable only if other establishments are
in a position to meet local needs.
The categories of public establishments which
are required to have at their disposal the means necessary for
the performance of voluntary terminations of pregnancies, shall
be defined by decree (décret).
In the hospital establishments in the categories
mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Board of Governors (conseil
d'administration) shall designate the department where the voluntary
terminations of pregnancies will be performed.
If the head of the department concerned refuses
to take responsibility for such procedures, the Board of Governors
shall create a unit equipped with the means necessary for the
performance of voluntary termination of pregnancies.
Article L. 162-9. Every
establishment in which a pregnancy termination is performed must
provide the woman, after the operation, with information on birth
Article L. 162-10. Every
pregnancy termination must be the subject of a notification drawn
up by the physician and forwarded to the regional medical inspector
of health by the establishment at which the operation was performed;
no mention shall be made of the identity of the woman in this
Article L. 162-11. The
termination of a pregnancy in the case of a non-citizen shall
be authorized only if the woman concerned satisfies the residence
requirements laid down by way of regulations.
The requirement laid down in Article L. 162-7 must
also be satisfied in the case of unmarried women under 18 years
of age who are not French citizens.
Voluntary termination of pregnancy performed on
Article L. 162-12. A voluntary
termination of pregnancy may be performed at any stage of gestation
if two physicians certify, after an examination and discussion,
that the continuation of the pregnancy is seriously endangering
the woman's health or that there is a strong possibility that
the unborn child is suffering from a particularly serious disease
or condition considered as incurable at the time of the diagnosis.
One of the two physicians must be practising his
profession in a public hospital establishment or in a private
hospital establishment conforming to the provisions of Article
L. 176, while the other must be entered on a list of experts attached
to the Court of Cassation or to an appeal Court.
One copy of the consultation shall be given to the
woman concerned; two others copies shall be retained by the consulting
Article L. 162-13. The
provisions of Articles L. 162-2 and L. 162-8 to L. 162-10 shall
be applicable to voluntary terminations of pregnancy performed
on therapeutic grounds.
Article L. 162-14. A decree
made with the accord of the Conseil d'Etat shall determine
the means for the implementation of this Chapter.
Article L. 178-1 of the code of Public Health (as
amended by Law No. 75-17) reads as follows:
Article L. 178-1. The
number of voluntary terminations of pregnancy performed annually
in the establishments referred to in Article L. 176 may not be
greater than one-quarter of all the surgical and obstetrical operations
Exceeding the said proportion shall entail closure
of the establishment for a period of one year. Any repetition
of the offence shall entail final closure of the establishment.
Article L. 647 of the Code of Public Health (as amended
by Law 75-17) reads as follows:
Article L. 647. Any persons
who by any means whatsoever have incited others to pregnancy terminations,
even if the latter are legal and even if no actual abortions are
performed as a result of such incitement, shall be sentenced to
two months' to two years' imprisonment and/or a fine of between
2,000 and 20,000 F, without prejudice to the provision
of Article 60 of the Penal code.
The same penalties shall be imposed on any persons
who, by any media whatsoever, other than publications restricted
to physicians and pharmacists, have disseminated propaganda or
publicity concerning either establishments in which pregnancy
terminations are performed or medicaments, products, and objects
or methods intended to procure, or presented as being of such
a nature as to procure, an abortion.
In the case of incitement, propaganda, or publicity
effected by means of written material, even where the latter is
introduced from abroad, or by means of audio-visual media, even
if the source of the latter is located abroad but the media have
been received in France, the penal proceedings prescribed in the
preceding paragraphs shall be instituted against the persons listed
in Article 285 of the Penal Code under the conditions laid down
by the said Article (where the offence has been committed through
the medium of the press) or against the persons recogniz4ed as
being responsible for the transmission or, in their absence, the
heads of establishments or the directors or managers of undertakings
who disseminated the transmission or profited therefrom (where
the offence has been committed through any other medium).
Article 317 of the Penal Code (as amended by Article
3, No. IV of Law No. 79-1204) reads as follows:
Article 317. Any person
who causes or attempts to cause an abortion on a pregnant or putatively
pregnant woman, with or without her consent, by means of food,
beverages, medicaments, manipulations, force, or by any other
means whatsoever, shall be punished by imprisonment from one to
five years and by a fine of 1,800 to 100,000 francs.
Imprisonment shall be from five to ten years and
the fine from 18,000 to 250,000 francs, if it is proven
that the perpetrator habitually performs the acts referred to
in the preceding paragraph.
A woman who has performed or attempted to perform
an abortion on herself, or has agreed to use means indicated or
supplied to her, shall be punished by imprisonment from six months
to two years and by a fine of 360 to 20,000 francs.
Physicians, health officials, midwives, dentists,
pharmacists, as well as medical students, pharmacy students or
pharmacy employees, herbalists, trussmakers, sellers of surgery
equipment, female and male nurses and masseurs, who have indicated,
aided, or used means for causing an abortion, shall be sentenced
to the punishment provided for in paragraphs 1and 2 of this Article.
Furthermore, conviction shall entail the complete ineligibility
or loss of right to practise their profession for at least five
Any person who violates the prohibition of exercising
his profession as provided in the preceding paragraph, shall be
punished by imprisonment for not less than six months nor more
than five years and by a fine of 3,600 to 100,000 francs, or
The provisions of the first four paragraphs of
this section shall not apply where a voluntary termination of
pregnancy is performed either under the conditions laid down in
Article L. 162-12 of the Public Health Code or, before the end
of the tenth week, by a physician in a public hospital establishment
or a private hospital establishment conforming to the provisions
of Article L. 176 of the Code of Public Health.
The first two paragraphs of Article 378 of the Penal
code (as amended by Law No. 75-17) read as follows:
378. Physicians, surgeons,
and other health officers, as well as pharmacists, midwives, and
all other persons entrusted with secrets by reason of their situation,
profession, or temporary or permanent functions, and who disclose
such secrets other than in cases where they are obliged or authorized
to do so by the law, shall be sentenced to one to six months'
imprisonment and a fine of between 500 and 3,000 francs.
However, the above-mentioned persons, although not
obliged to report abortions performed under conditions other than
those prescribed by the law and which have come to their knowledge
in the course of their professional practice, shall not be liable
to the penalties laid down in the preceding paragraph in the event
that they do report such abortions; if subpoenaed in connexion
with an abortion case, they shall be free to give evidence without
rendering themselves liable to any sanction.
Article 13 of Law No. 79-1204 provides:
I. A Parliamentary Delegation
on Demographic Problems shall be constituted. It shall consist
of twenty-five members: fifteen deputies of the National Assembly
and ten Senators.
II. The members of the
Delegation shall be assigned to the functions by each of the Chambers
of Parliament in such a manner to assure proportional representation
of the political groups.
The deputy-members of the Delegation shall be assigned
at the beginning of the legislative session for its duration.
The Senator-members of the Delegation shall be assigned
after every partial re-constitution (renouvellement partiel)
of the Senate.
The mandates of the members of the Delegation end
at the same time as their mandates in the Parliament.
III. The task of the Parliamentary
Delegation on Demographic Problems is to inform the Chambers of
IV. The government shall
each year present to the Delegation a report concerning actions
mentioned in paragraph III above; the Delegation shall formulate
its observations on this report and submit them to the competent
V. The Delegation shall
determine its own rules and procedures.