Today’s laws on abortion in all western countries could never have come about without the women’s movement; and the same can be said of the attitude which the western public at large now generally shows to abortion. For a long time, the women’s movement and the debate on abortion were closely connected with one another, and in certain situations they fuelled one another. The experience of ‘the women of Gennevilliers’, for example, made it clear that emancipation and political consciousness-one spoke simply of ‘consciousness raising’ in the 1970s-began for many women with an abortion. In France, the struggle for the legalization of abortion reached a turning point when the Nouvel Observateur, on 5 April 1971, published a ‘Manifeste des femmes’ in which 343 women publicly declared, ‘I have had an abortion.’ In many parts of France and Italy, women also opened centres where illegal abortions were performed. One was in Gennevilliers:
At the back of a field which was overrun by weeds, in a street which at night was almost deserted, and facing a factory: a far from inviting place. The association’s name-plate was affixed to the door, and with the word ‘abortion’ clearly in view and written in large-size letters, it surely had not been calculated to reassure women who up until then had been accustomed to remain in hiding…. Women at the corner of the street waited in hesitation for someone to muster the nerve to enter the place. It was enough for a single women, slightly more courageous, to come ahead, and suddenly they arrived in droves.