French lawmakers voted on Thursday to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution, with MPs on the left and centre saying the US Supreme Court’s overturning of a landmark ruling in June showed the need for new steps.
The vote in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, marks only the first step on the path to enshrining the right to abortion in the constitution.
In order to change the constitution, a bill must be voted on in the same terms by the lower house and the Senate.
The latter is controlled by the right and last month rejected a cross-party bill aimed at constitutionalising the right to abortion and contraception.
>> On the rocky road to enshrining abortion rights in the French constitution
On Thursday, MPs from the left-wing party La France insoumise (France Unbowed) party and the ruling centrist coalition struck a deal on the wording of the new clause, which passed with a huge majority.
“The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy,” reads the proposed constitutional addition to article 66.
It was approved with 337 votes for and 32 against.
“The assembly is speaking to the world, our country is speaking to the world,” said jubilant left-wing lawmaker Mathilde Panot, dedicating the vote to women in Hungary, Poland and the United States.
Panot, who spearheaded the legislation along with a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s party, said the move was necessary in France to protect “against a regression”.
Legal for 48 years
Women have had a legal right to abortion in France since a law adopted in 1974, and updated several times since, with the latest modification in February extending access to abortion to 14 weeks of pregnancy from 12.
Adding it to the constitution would further protect this right and make it harder to overturn in France, said Panot.
“It aims to prevent any regression,” she told parliament. “We don’t want to give any chance to people hostile to abortion and contraception rights.”
Abortion rights are more widely accepted in France than in the United States or some fellow EU countries. Some 83% of French people are happy with the fact that abortion is legal, an Ifop poll showed in July, 16 percentage points more than about 30 years ago.
The same poll showed 81% back adding the right to abortion in the constitution.
Many conservative and Catholic politicians had announced their misgivings about the abortion change, seeing it as unnecessary given the legal protections already in place.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose National Rally is the biggest single opposition party in parliament, had called it “totally misplaced” earlier this week because abortion rights were not under threat in France.
She missed the vote on Thursday “for medical reasons”, a spokesperson said.
(FRANCE 24 with Reuters)
Source: France 24