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France: Abortion guaranteed as a constitutional right

France: Abortion guaranteed as a constitutional right

Image source: © canva
Natalia Witulska,
05.03.2024 15:00

A historic moment occurred on Monday, 4 March, as the French Parliament passed a law to enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. France thus became the first country in the world to guarantee a woman’s right to voluntarily terminate pregnancy.

On Monday, 4 March, a special joint session of both houses of the French Parliament took place. Representatives of the National Assembly and the Senate gathered. The women's right to abortion was discussed. It was decided that it should be written into France’s constitution.

The debate on the right to abortion was opened by the president of the French parliament, Yael-Braun Pivet. It is worth noting that she is the first woman to hold this position. She opened the session of both chambers with the words: "To women in France, we say that we will never roll back (this freedom). To women of the world, we say that we will support you and that we will be at your side," she added.

Right to abortion enshrined in the constitution

During the debate on the right to abortion, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal emphasised that France is a pioneer in women's rights. He stated that this was a historic moment and that politicians were paying a moral debt to young women who had suffered due to the government's past mistakes.

According to the Associated Press, the congressional vote on March 4th was merely a formality. A bill to make abortion a constitutional right had already been passed by France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, in January with an overwhelming majority of 493 to 30. The Senate followed suit on February 28th, with a vote of 267 to 50.

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French President Emmanuel Macron's promise to include the right to abortion in the French constitution has been fulfilled. In October 2023, he announced that a constitutional bill would be sent to the Council of State and presented to the government by the end of the year. However, this decision was criticised by Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, the President of the Bishops' Conference of France. He argued that abortion "cannot be seen from the sole angle of women’s rights."

Abortion as a human right

With the adoption of the bill, France has become the first country in the world to enshrine the right to abortion in its constitution. The bill was supported by representatives from both the right and far-right parties, as the majority of people in France are in favour of legal access to abortion. In a recent poll conducted in France, the right to terminate a pregnancy was supported by more than 80% of those surveyed, AFP reports.

The historic moment of enshrining the right to abortion in the French constitution was commented on social media by Wanda Nowicka. The Polish MP is an active women's rights activist who advocates for the right to terminate a pregnancy up to its 12th week in Poland, too.

"The French Senate has recognised the right to abortion as a constitutional right. It has thus elevated legal abortion and women's rights to a higher level of legal protection. This is an extremely important decision in the context of threats to women's reproductive rights in the world, including Poland. Bravo France!" Wanda Nowicka wrote on X.

As radiozet.pl reports, abortion was decriminalised in France in 1975 under a law drafted by then-health minister Simone Veil. At the time, an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 women aborted their pregnancies each year.

Source: radiozet.pl, Associated Press

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