France to Establish Abortion as a Constitutional Right

France to Establish Abortion as a Constitutional Right

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French lawmakers are poised to enshrine the right to abortion in the country’s constitution, marking a historic move with widespread public support.

A congress of both houses of parliament, commencing in Versailles at 3:30 pm (1430 GMT) on Monday, is expected to secure the necessary three-fifths majority for the amendment, overcoming initial resistance in the right-leaning Senate. If approved, France will become the first country globally to explicitly safeguard the right to terminate a pregnancy in its fundamental law.

President Emmanuel Macron committed last year to embedding abortion rights into the constitution following the US Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn decades-old abortion protections. This move allowed states to impose restrictions or outright bans on the procedure.

In January, France’s lower-house National Assembly overwhelmingly endorsed the proposal to establish abortion as a “guaranteed freedom” in the constitution, a decision upheld by the Senate on Wednesday.

The bill now faces a final vote in a rare joint session of both chambers at the Palace of Versailles, where few anticipate any obstacles in securing the required supermajority, given the overwhelming support seen in previous ballots.

Claudine Monteil, head of the Femmes Monde (Women in the World) association, reflected on the unforeseen journey towards constitutional recognition of abortion rights, recalling her involvement as one of the signatories to the 1971 “Manifesto of the 343”. This manifesto, signed by women admitting to terminating pregnancies, laid the groundwork for the legalization of abortion in France in 1975.

Abortion rights have remained a contentious issue globally, with France’s impending constitutional amendment seen as a significant milestone in the ongoing struggle for reproductive rights. The move underscores a growing awareness of women’s rights and the need to safeguard them in the face of political, economic, and religious challenges.

The overwhelming public support for the constitutional amendment reflects a broader societal shift towards recognizing and protecting reproductive rights. Left-wing and centrist politicians have embraced the change, while right-wing senators, facing pressure from constituents, have signaled their support.

President Macron hailed the Senate’s endorsement as a “decisive step” and promptly called for Monday’s parliamentary congress, underscoring the significance of this historic moment in French legislative history. If approved, the amendment will cement France’s position as a global leader in advancing reproductive rights and gender equality.

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