Paris anti-abortion rally attracts thousands before parliament debate
Thousands of people protested against abortion in France in a Paris rally on the eve of a parliamentary debate on a bill that would make termination of pregnancy easier.
Organisers including religious groups, anti-gay activists and associations for handicapped children, claimed 40,000 people took part on Sunday. Police put their number at 16,000.
The demonstration was inspired by changes in Spain, where the conservative government last month, under pressure from the Catholic Church, agreed to draft a bill that would ban abortions except in cases of rape or threat to the mother's health.
France's left-wing-dominated parliament was yesterday due to start debating a bill that would permit a woman to obtain an abortion if she did not wish to pursue her pregnancy. Existing law requires a woman to show that having a baby would put her "in a situation of distress".
The bill would also punish those who tried to prevent a woman from entering places where she could receive information on abortion.
France records close to 220,000 abortions a year and it is estimated about one Frenchwoman in three undergoes the procedure in her lifetime. Since a year ago, abortions have been reimbursed under the state health system.