On June 30th 2017, a great lady passed away. Her name was Simone Veil. What still remains though is her legacy. A legacy we should respect and keep fighting for, because it should absolutely not be taken for granted!
Simone Veil was born in 1927 in Nice, France (she was born Simone Jacob). As her family was Jewish, she was deported to Auschwitz during the Holocaust while she was only 16. As her parents and brother didn’t survive the camp, she was only rescued with her two sisters.
In 1946, she married Antoine Veil. She then graduated from law school and the ‘Institut d’études politiques de Paris’. In 1956, she passed the national examination to become a magistrate. After that, she entered the National Penitentiary Administration (under the Ministry of Justice) where she held a senior position . Let’s not forget that this position was highly unusual for a woman and that she had to face bullying from men wanting her to quit. But she didn’t! She was responsible for judicial affairs and improved women’s prison conditions and the treatment of incarcerated women. In 1964, she left to become the director of civil affairs, where she improved French women’s general rights and status. She successfully achieved the right to dual parental control of family legal matters and adoptive rights for women. In 1970, she became secretary general of the Supreme Magistracy Council.
From 1974 to 1979 she was Minister of Health. In this role, she continued fighting for women’s rights and succeeded. Indeed, she pushed forward the following notable laws:
- 4 December 1974 facilitating access to contraception.
- 17 January 1975: Legalizing abortion in France. This law represents her hardest political fight and the one she is best known for. When you think of the status of abortion in the world today, we can only be thankful for her fight and realize it is far from being the norm.
She continued her career in the European Parliament before coming back to the French government.
In 2008, she entered the Académie Française, being the sixth woman to do so, and in 2012, she received the Grand Cross of the Légion d’Honneur. Just to name a few of the honors she received.
On June 30th 2017, she died at home, only two weeks before her 90th birthday. She was an example for so many and she should and will be remembered as a great, great lady. Mrs Veil, thank you and rest in peace!