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Thousands oppose abortion in Paris demo

(From L) MPs Catherine Coutelle and Catherine Lemorton and Family and Women's Rights Minister Laurence Rossignol during a debate on the website law AFP

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against abortion in Paris on Sunday, calling on candidates in this year's presidential election to scrap the right which has been inscribed in French law since 1975.

Before the march set off, organisers claimed that 50,000 people had turned out on the demonstration, which wants the right to abortion to be scrapped and the rejection of a move to stop anti-abortion websites presenting themselves as neutral advisers.

One of the organisers, Jean-Marie Le Méné, called on presidential candidates to adopt a "public health policy that fights abortion".

The demonstration came the day after the worldwide Women's March that followed US President Doland Trump's inauguration.

In Paris many participants in that protest focused on a perceived threat to abortion rights from mainstream right-wing candidate François Fillon, a devout Catholic who has declared his personal opposition but promised not to try to change the law.

Sunday's organisers said that the national secretary of Fillon's Republicans party, Madeleine de Jessey, had promised to attend.

Pressure on Fillon

De Jessey, who is also a member of Fillon's campaign team, is one of the leaders of Sens Commun (Common Sense), a Republicans faction formed in the wake of the 2013 demonstrations against gay marriage.

Two right-wing politicians, frequent presidential candidate Philippe de Villiers and Christine Boutin of the small Christian Democrat Party, attended the protest, with de Villiers attacking a "totally hypocritical" attitude of unnamed presidential pretenders.

Pope Francis expressed his support for the march on Friday, calling for a "civilisation of love and a culture of life".

Parliament is to vote this week on a bill to extend a law originally intended to stop "pro-life" activists picketing abortion clinics to cyberspace, where websites are accused of attracting women under false pretences in order to pressure them not to abort.

France records around 220,000 abortions a year and it is estimated that about one Frenchwoman in three undergoes the procedure in her lifetime.