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Simone Veil

Simone Veil fought for women’s rights as a member of the French Parliament, and the 1975 law allowing women the right to an abortion bears her name. Veil earned her BA from the Nice lycée in 1944, two days before she and her family were arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Only she and her sisters survived. After the war, she returned to France and earned degrees in law and political science. She worked as an attorney and as a civil servant in the Ministry of Justice, where she reformed conditions in women’s prisons and fought to grant women full parental rights. In 1974, she was appointed Minister of Health, the first female minister in the French Parliament. During her fight to make contraception and abortion legal and available, Veil faced attacks that included swastikas painted on her building and opponents likening abortion to the Holocaust. In 1979, she became the first woman president of the European Parliament, returning to the French Parliament in 1993 in various cabinet posts. From 1998-2007 she served on the highest legal authority in France, the Conseil Constituionnel. She has been honored for her work for women, world peace, and Holocaust remembrance.

Veil, Simone - still image [media]
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Simone Veil is arguably the one person most responsible for advancing women’s legal rights in France during the twentieth century. As her country's first female Minister of Health, Veil fought against great opposition to have a woman's right to an abortion enshrined in French law. She went on to become the first woman—and the first Holocaust survivor—to be appointed president of the European Parliament. The recipient of numerous honors in the Jewish world, Veil is shown here receiving a Hagaddah from Yeshiva University President Norman Lamm at an International Student Scholarship Fund dinner.

Institution: Yeshiva University, New York

Date of Birth
July 13, 1927
Place of Birth

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Simone Veil." (Viewed on February 8, 2016) <>.


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