Paris, June 30, Simone Veil, who was the first woman elected to lead the European Parliament in 1979 and legalised abortion in France during her stint as Health Minister, died on Friday at the age of 89, her family announced.
Veil, who was Jewish and as a teenager survived the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, died in her home in Paris, Efe news reported.
"Very sincere condolences to the family of Simone Veil. May her example inspire our compatriots, who will in her find the best of France," said French President Emmanuel Macron on his official Twitter account.
She was born in Nice in 1927 to a Jewish family and in 1944 was arrested by the Gestapo (the secret police of Nazi Germany) along with many of her relatives, some of whom did not survive, including her parents and brother.
Upon her return to France, she studied law and worked as a high-level civil servant in the Justice Ministry till she was named Health Minister in 1974 by then President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.
It was while in that post that she pushed for the so-called "Veil Law", which decriminalised abortion in France.
While defending the law in Parliament, she incurred the wrath of the political right, with many lawmakers reproaching her for supposedly supporting genocide.
Some even compared her behaviour to that of the Nazis.
Between 1979 and 1982 she was the President of the European Parliament, whose members had for the first time been elected by universal suffrage.
Veil then returned to posts in the French government, serving as Minister of State and of Health and Social Affairs under then President Édouard Balladur.
From 1998 to 2007, she was a member of the constitutional council, the highest such authority in the country which is in charge of making sure proposed statutes adhere to the Constitution.
She received many awards and honours for her work, including an honorary Damehood from the British government, the Princess of Asturias Award in International Cooperation and the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur.