Restrictions on abortion access in France may loosen should the nation's legislature pass a recently introduced bill.
The French parliament began a debate Monday evening over a bill that if enacted will remove the requirement that a woman seeking an abortion must prove she is in serious distress.
In addition to making abortion more accessible, the bill would also place a legal punishment for those who may attempt to prevent a woman from getting an abortion, reports the U.K. Telegraph.
"Under a landmark 1975 law, abortion is legal in France for the first 12 weeks of gestation – compared to 24 weeks in Britain – as long as the woman can prove that she is in 'a situation of distress,'" wrote Henry Samuel of the Telegraph.
"The changes are part of a wide-reaching bill on gender equality whose other measures include extending paternity leave in France to six months, increasing fines for failure to reach parity in politics and business and banning 'mini-Miss' beauty pageants for under 13-year-olds."
Under its current Socialist party rule, France's government has looked into eliminating what it dubs threats to gender equality in the nation, reported Kim Willsher of the Guardian.
"France's Socialist government was prompted to sponsor equality legislation after figures showed that French women earn 25% less than their male colleagues; that 23% of the CAC40 (French stock exchange) company board members are women; and that one in seven of France's 36,500 mayors are female," wrote Willsher.
News of the legislative effort to loosen abortion restrictions prompted a large-scale protest in Paris on Sunday, with as many as 40,000 demonstrators holding their own "March for Life" event.
The climate of the protest included not only opposition to the French legislature's new abortion bill but also support for neighboring Spain's recent effort to increase abortion restrictions.
Late last year, the Spanish government announced their intention to enact stricter abortion access laws, replacing the looser regulations put in place in 2010.
If enacted, Spain's new abortion law will only permit abortion in the event of rape, health of the mother, or confirmed fetal deformities that could endanger the child's life.
Spain's efforts have drawn the support of social conservatives and the Roman Catholic Church, while garnering the criticism of opposition parties and women's groups.