Tens of thousands of "pro- family" protesters have marched in Paris and Lyons against new laws easing abortion restrictions and legalising gay marriage, accusing French President Francois Hollande's government of "family phobia".
Police said 80,000 people took to the streets of the French capital on Sunday, creating a sea of blue, white and pink - the colours of the lead organising movement LMPT (Protest for Everyone) - who gave a far higher turnout figure of half a million. Demonstrator Philippe Blin, a pastor from nearby Sevres, said he felt a "relentlessness against the family" in France.
At least 20,000 rallied in Lyons, many of them ferried in aboard dozens of buses, waving placards reading "Mom and Dad, There's Nothing Better for a Child", and "Two Fathers, Two Mothers, Children With No Bearings" - a slogan that rhymes in French.
Organisers in the south- central city estimated the crowd at 40,000.
"We are in a society that has lost many of its bearings, and everything that was an institution ... which served as a foundation, has gradually disappeared," said one protester in his 40s, who gave his name only as Eric. "Attacks against the family are dangerous for the family, for children, for the country."
LMPT president Ludovine de la Rochere said she was thrilled with the turnout and appealed to the government to respond to the marchers' concerns.
The movement opposes a slew of policies under Hollande - the most unpopular French president of modern times - including last year's law allowing gay marriage. Other targets include medically assisted procreation techniques for lesbian couples and in vitro fertilisation.
They are also demanding the scrapping of an experimental school programme aimed at combatting gender stereotypes.
In Lyons, politicians wearing their tricolour sashes walked at the front of the march behind a banner reading, in English, "Brussels, Leave Our Kids Alone".
LMPT official Francois de Vivies said the European Parliament was set to review a report today that "again tries to tell us how we are supposed to educate our children". The report calls for a new EU action plan to combat homophobia.
On Sunday, a few counter-demonstrators waved signs behind de la Rochere as she gave a stand-up television interview, one reading: "Protect Our Children from the Witches".
In Lyons, protesters shouted: "Hollande, You Have Broken France", with many calling for his resignation as well as that of Education Minister Vincent Peillon.
The mass protests come a week after several thousand people marched through Paris in a "Day of Anger" against Hollande's Socialist government. Some shouted anti-Semitic slogans, and the demonstration ended in clashes between police and protesters that left 19 police officers wounded and led to the detention of 226 people.
U.S. abortions at 40-year low
The number of abortions performed in the United States has dropped to the lowest level in 40 years, a study said yesterday, pointing to more contraception use rather than increased restrictions on access to the procedure.
In 2011, an estimated 16.9 abortions were carried out per 1,000 women aged between 15 and 44 - 1.1 million in absolute terms. It was the lowest number since 1973, when it was 16.3 per 1,000, the Guttmacher Institute found.
Between 2008 and 2011, the abortion rate fell by 13 per cent, as procedures were performed increasingly earlier in pregnancy.
The study noted that during that same period, the number of abortion providers fell by just four per cent and clinics offering the service by just one per cent.
The number of abortions reached a peak in 1981, with 29.3 for every 1,000 women.
"Our study did not find evidence that the national decline in abortions … was the result of new state abortion restrictions," said Rachel Jones, its lead author.