PARIS - France's lower house voted Friday to fully reimburse all abortions and to make contraception free for minors.
National medical insurance currently pays in full for abortions for minors and the poor, while other women are reimbursed for up to 80 percent of the procedure's cost, which can be as much as (EURO)450 ($580). Contraception is partially reimbursed.
The bill passed by the National Assembly would make all abortions free and would also pay for contraception for those between 15 and 18. It now goes to the Senate, where it is likely to pass.
"Women who want to stop an unwanted pregnancy have the right to be covered: The enactment of the right to choose to halt a pregnancy is an obligatory state service," the bill's language says.
Some groups complain that price is only one impediment to abortion access. They say too few doctors offer the procedure and there needs to be more information about who does. Under the bill, reimbursements would not go beyond (EURO)450 — and some medical service providers in France charge more than that for an abortion.
While some segments of French society oppose the right to abortion, the issue rarely makes headlines. France is among the European countries that allow minors to have abortions without parental consent, and in 1988, was the first country to introduce RU-486, which terminates pregnancy by causing the embryo to detach from the uterine wall.
It is different from a drug known in the U.S. as the "morning-after pill," which works by preventing ovulation or fertilization. In medical terms, pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus.