France adopts bill to add abortion rights to its constitution

Lawmakers in France’s lower house of parliament have adopted a bill to introduce abortion rights into the country’s constitution, with 32 lawmakers voting against the bill.

Assistant Press

Paris,Updated: November 25, 2022 10:10 AM IST

Abortion rights bill in France

Abortion in France was criminalized under a 1975 original law, but there is nothing in the constitution that would guarantee the right to an abortion. (Photo: AP)

By Associated Press: Lawmakers in France’s lower house of parliament on Thursday adopted a bill to enshrine abortion rights in the country’s constitution, the first step in a long and uncertain legal battle to restore abortion rights in the United States.

The measure was approved in the 557-member National Assembly with 337 lawmakers voting for and 32 against.

To be incorporated into the constitution, any measure must first be approved by a majority in the National Assembly and the upper house, the Senate, and then in a nationwide referendum.

The proposal’s authors, from a left-wing coalition, argued that the measure aimed to “protect and guarantee the fundamental right to voluntary termination of pregnancy.”

Abortion in France was criminalized under a 1975 original law, but there is nothing in the constitution that would guarantee the right to an abortion.

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Mathilde Panot, head of the hard-left France Unbid group in the National Assembly and a co-signatory of the resolution, said “Our intention is clear: we don’t want to leave any chance to the opponents of abortion rights.”

French Justice Minister Eric DuPont-Moretti said the moderate government supported the initiative.

He cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June, which struck down the federal constitutional right to abortion and left the decision up to the states.

“We thought that abortion rights had been achieved for 50 years (in the United States) in reality they have not been achieved,” he said.

A recent poll showed that more than 80% of the French population supports abortion rights. The results were consistent with previous studies. The same poll also showed that a strong majority of people were in favor of including it in the constitution.

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French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist coalition, Renaissance, decided on Thursday to withdraw a similar proposal that was due to be debated in the National Assembly on Monday. Centrist and left-wing lawmakers agreed instead of supporting a single bill that “the law guarantees the effectiveness of and equal access to the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy.”

Thursday’s vote is just the first step in a long process without a definitive outcome.

The Senate, which has a conservative, Republican majority, rejected a similar bill in September. Republican senators argued that the measure was not needed because abortion rights were not under threat in France.

DuPont-Moretti said she was “hopeful” that some senators could change their minds and form a majority in favor.

He and other advocates of constitutional change argue that French lawmakers should take no chances on fundamental rights, since it is easier to change laws than the constitution.

Abortion rights enjoy widespread support across the French political spectrum, including Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Assembly. Yet Le Pen has said in recent days that she opposes the left-wing proposal because she thinks it could potentially extend or abolish the period during which a pregnancy can be terminated.

After the US Supreme Court decision in June, Macron tweeted that “Abortion is a fundamental right for all women. It must be protected.”

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