Early on Friday, sources reported that French Holocaust survivor and pro-choice icon Simone Veil had died at the age of 89. The news initially came from her son, Jean. For decades, Veil has been a role model for women everywhere for more reasons than one. Needless to say, though the world will miss her, it won't forget her role in legalizing abortion for French women.
Veil was involved in French government on multiple levels. In 1979, she became a member of French Parliament and remained so until 1993, when she was chosen as minister of health under then-President François Mitterrand. She maintained that role under another president up until July 1979 before being elected the first president of the European Parliament. In fact, she served in France's top constitutional court all the way up until 2007.
Veil was especially active in the abortion debate in France in the 1970s. Most notably, she proposed the piece of legislation, known as the "Veil Law" or the "Loi Veil," which would eventually lead to the legalization of abortion in France. It went into effect on Jan. 17, 1975. But if the reproductive rights debate in America is any indicator, the same debate in France during the '70s was an aggressive one. Veil faced intense criticism, much of which was anti-Semitic, but according to the Jewish Women's Archive, one thing kept her pushing forward: her mother.
"I’m often asked what gave me the strength and will to continue the fight," Veil said, according to the archives. "I believe deeply that it was my mother; she has never stopped being present to me, next to me.” Her mother, father, and brother died at concentration camps during World War II.
Following the war, Veil went on to study at Sciences Po in Paris, becoming a lawyer prior to her political career.
Simone veil, a true model for me and for all french women has left us today I'm so sad, a women who mark french history we'll gonna miss you pic.twitter.com/9Ea03Au8gs— Juliette Vanel (@VanelJuliette) June 30, 2017
French President Emmanuel Macron described her as "inspiring" and as France's best, according to the BBC. He sent a message to her family following the news: "May her example inspire our fellow countrymen, who will find in her the best of France."
Most recently, Veil surprised some of her fans in 2007 when she endorsed Nicolas Sarkozy, a neo-conservative, for French president. Regardless of whom she endorsed, however, her role in French politics as both a pro-choice icon and Holocaust survivor will always be admired.