The French and Americans once saw eye to eye on reproductive rights. Today, not so much.
By Pamela Druckerman
JUNE 30, 2022
When the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, a quote attributed to Simone de Beauvoir quickly circulated on French social media. “Never forget that all it takes is a political, economic or religious crisis for women’s rights to be called into question,” it said. “These rights are never fully acquired. You must remain vigilant your whole life.”
The French are feeling vigilant in part because, historically, they moved in near-lockstep with the U.S. on abortion and related reproductive rights. In 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling granting married couples access to birth-control medication; France authorized free access to the pill, for anyone, two years later. The U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on Roe in 1973; two years later, France decriminalized abortion by passing what became known as the loi Veil, after Simone Veil, the celebrated postwar politician who, as health minister, spearheaded the effort to enact the legislation.