France to decide on constitutional right to abortion

A joint session of parliament at the Palace of Versailles was set to decide on Monday about whether to anchor a woman’s right to abortion in the French constitution.

Such a move would make France the only country in the world to explicitly protect the right to terminate a pregnancy in its basic legal articles.

What change is being made?

French President Emmanuel Macron promised the measure in the wake of a 2022 rolling back of abortion rights by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Elysee Palace is proposing that Article 34 of the French constitution be amended to specify “the law determines the conditions by which is exercised the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed.”

Macron’s government aims to make “a woman’s right to have an abortion irreversible.”

Why is this happening now?

The National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, overwhelmingly approved making abortion a “guaranteed freedom” in the constitution. The country’s upper house, the Senate, did the same last Wednesday.

A congress of both houses met at Versailles, where it was expected that the measure would achieve the three-fifths supermajority needed for a constitutional change.

Mexico’s Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion

“When we want to attack the freedoms of a people, we always start with that of women,” French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told those gathered.

“Our freedoms are inherently threatened. Inherently fragile, in essence at the mercy of those who decide.”

The bill had faced initial resistance in the right-leaning Senate. However, none of the major political parties represented in parliament has questioned the right to abortion, which France decriminalized in 1975.

The US Supreme Court’s decision to reverse the Roe v. Wade ruling, which recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion, prompted activists to press for France to make the constitutional change.

Vatican, French bishops oppose bill

“Unfortunately, this event is not isolated: in many countries, even in Europe, there are currents of opinion that seek to hinder at any cost the freedom of women to terminate their pregnancy if they wish,” the introduction to the bill says.

The Vatican on Monday repeated its opposition to the change, echoing concerns already raised by French Catholic bishops.

“The Pontifical Academy for Life recalls that in the era of universal human rights, there can be no ‘right’ to take a human life,” the Vatican institution said in a statement.

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