Simone Veil, an Auschwitz survivor, French Politician and best known for legalising abortion in France, passed away at the age of 89 in France on June 29th.

A feminist icon and revered as a French symbol of courage by the women of France, Veil was elected as the first female president of the European Parliament.

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, tweeted: “May her example inspire our fellow citizens as the best of what France can achieve.”

Expressing his condolences, the Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, tweeted: “France has lost a figure the likes of which history produces few.”


Born as Simone Jacob in 1927, her whole family was arrested by Germans in 1944. She never heard from her father or brother after they were transported to Eastern Europe and she was sent to the Auschwitz- Birkenau with her mother and sister. She survived with her other two sisters after the Liberation.

The Telegraph, in an article, recorded her statement that was made in an interview in 2005,

“Sixty years later I am still haunted by the images, the odours, the cries, the humiliation, the blows and the sky filled with the smoke of the crematoriums.”

Ms Veil went to Sciences Po in Paris to study law and political science and it is here that she met Antoine Veil, her husband to whom she was married for more than 60 years and had three children.


One of her first achievements was becoming the first female General Secretary of the Council of Magistrates  in 1970 that was preceded by her efforts to improve the condition of prisons.

Ms Veil became the Health Minister of France in 1974 for a term of five years. These years proved to be the cornerstone for the French women.

She made access to contraception easier and fought a long battle to legalise abortion in France. The Law was passed in 1975 and came to be known as “la loi Veil” or “Veil’s Law.”

Veil’s enthusiasm and dedication to ensure the legalisation of abortion was reflected in her iconic speech before the vote on the law was taken. “’I apologise for doing it in front of this assembly comprised almost exclusively of men,’ she said that day, underscoring with a single phrase exactly why her presence was so crucial. She added, ‘No woman resorts to abortion lightheartedly,’” an article in Vox read.

Her political career featured her achievement as the Member of the European Parliament in the 1979 European elections, followed by getting elected as the first female President of the Parliament till 1982. After stepping down in 1993, she re-entered French politics as a minister, followed by her appointment to the constitutional council of France.

She was awarded the title of Dame in 1998 by the British Government and became one of the 40 “immortals” of the Académie Française in 2010.

An obituary that featured in The Guardian read,

“When not in the office, she and her husband took part in discussion clubs and exercised an influence on many politicians. Poor health in later years led her to abstain from playing a direct role in the political scene.”

She is survived by her sons, Jean and Pierre-François, as her husband passed away in 2013 and so did her sister. Simone Veil is to receive a state funeral.

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Jagriti is an intern with SheThePeople.TV