Former EU parliament president Simone Veil dies

The late Simone Veil

Paris: Simone Veil, a former magistrate and Holocaust survivor best known in France for legalising abortion in the 1970s, died on Friday.

Veil was among France's most popular politicians, and was revered across the political spectrum.

President Emmanuel Macron described her as "inspiring" and the best of France.

Veil - a model of composure who always wore her hair in a sleek bun and dressed in Chanel suits - was seen as something of a secular saint for her unwavering stance on moral issues. "She was registered for the labour camp, shaved from head to toe and tattooed with the serial number 78651 on her arm". Veil survived Auschwitz as a teen and went on to study law and enter politics after the war. The following year, she was elected to the Académie Française-a rare honor for a politician.

"No woman resorts to an abortion with a light heart".

In 1971, feminists began a campaign to overturn France's ban on abortion, attacking the stigma of pregnancy termination and women's deaths in backstreet operations. "We can no longer shut our eyes to the 300,000 abortions that each year mutilate the women of this country, trample on its laws and humiliate or traumatise those who undergo them".

Veil, a women's rights icon who served as the first elected president of the European Parliament, died at her home, her son Jean Veil said. She published a best-selling autobiography in 2007 titled "A Life". She was also the first female president of the parliament, the New York Times reports. "The only possible option was to make peace".

Veil, a lawyer by education, served as minister of health under the center-right government of Valery Giscard d'Estaing and later as president of the European Parliament, as well as a member of the Constitutional Council of France.

"The idea of war was for me something bad", the French Academy member told the Associated Press in 2007.

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