PARIS, October 3, 2012 ( – The Socialist government of France has announced that the complete cost of all abortions will now be shouldered by the taxpayers. The move is part of the government’s latest budget proposal for 2013 that includes reforms to social services. Under the current rules, women undergoing abortion are able to claim only 70 to 80 per cent of the costs.

The change is estimated to cost the public 31.7 million Euros in the first year, but is being defended by the government as “necessary to ensure all women have equal access to abortion”. French president Francois Hollande pledged during the election to make abortion available at every hospital in the country.

Abortion is legal on demand in France up to 12 weeks gestation.

The push for increased access to abortion comes amidst sobering figures placing France amongst the many European countries heading for a demographic meltdown. At the moment, the country has an overall fertility rate of just 2.08 children born per woman, but this number is understood to be inflated by the high fertility rates of the country’s minority populations. Recent studies have said that up to a quarter of the nation’s population growth is within minority groups.

Foreign-born immigrants and their direct descendants represent 19 percent of the country’s population. Of the 802,000 children born in France in 2010, 27.3 percent had at least one foreign-born parent and 23.9 per cent had at least one parent from a non-European Union country.

With the median age of French women being 41.9 years, demographers warn that it will be all but impossible to reverse the trend of low birth rates among native French. Since 1975, the year abortion was legalized, France’s population growth rate has been in decline from its pre-World War II peak of 3.0 children per woman in 1949.