France Becomes First Country To Make Abortion A Constitutional Right

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French legislators on Monday overwhelmingly adopted a bill to enshrine abortion rights in France’s constitution, making it the only country that legally guarantees a woman’s right to freely end a pregnancy, news agency Associated Press reported. President Emmanuel Macron advocated the historic measure to prevent the type of reversal of abortion rights witnessed in the United States in recent years, and the decision during a special joint session of France’s parliament prompted a standing ovation from MPs.

The motion passed with a vote of 780 to 72 at the Palace of Versailles. Abortion is widely supported in France across the political spectrum, and it has been legal since 1975.

Many female politicians in the hall grinned openly while cheering, AP reported. While a tiny number of demonstrators gathered outside the joint session, women’s rights activists around France celebrated the action promised by Macron within hours of the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in 2022.

The US decision has resonated throughout Europe’s political landscape, reintroducing the topic into public discourse in several nations at a time when far-right nationalist groups are gaining traction.

Both chambers of France’s parliament, the National Assembly and Senate, have individually passed a bill to modify Article 34 of the French Constitution. However, the amendment awaits final confirmation through a three-fifths majority vote in a special joint session. The proposed change specifies that “the law determines the conditions by which is exercised the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed.”

France’s proposed amendment is perceived as a more explicit stance compared to the former Yugoslavia, whose 1974 constitution stated that “a person is free to decide on having children.” Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, its successor states have all incorporated similar provisions into their constitutions, allowing for legal abortion without explicit guarantee.

In the run-up to the vote, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal addressed the more than 900 parliamentarians assembled for the joint session in Versailles, urging them to make France a leader in women’s rights and an example for other nations. “We have a moral debt to women,” Attal was quoted as saying by AP in its report. 

He honored Simone Veil, a notable lawmaker, former health minister, and influential feminist who advocated for the legislation in 1975 that legalized abortion in France. “We have a chance to change history. Make Simone Veil proud,” he said. 

 

 

 

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