FRANCE: Assembly supports making abortion a constitutional right

Clapping in the National Assembly after the vote

An Ifop opinion poll published on 5 July 2022, carried out for the Jean Jaurès Foundation, found the issue of abortion rights had reached a “solid consensus” in France, with 81% of people from across the political spectrum wanting greater protections. This led to discussions about changing the French constitution to include abortion as a constitutional right. Doing so requires the National Assembly and the Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of the whole parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.

Early on in the discussion, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the Macron government would support a bill “wholeheartedly”, echoing the support expressed by other ministers. “For all women, for human rights, we must set this gain in stone. Parliament must be able to unite overwhelmingly over this text,” she wrote on Twitter. Leading politicians from left-wing parties welcomed the government’s U-turn in a statement and invited like-minded parliamentary groups to submit a joint text.

Mélanie Vogel, a Senator with the Europe Ecology-Green Party (EELV), who authored an earlier proposal for the Senate, said that “if France enshrines abortion as a constitutional right, that would send a very strong message to all the feminist movements across the world who are either fighting for this right or to stop it being pushed back. It would show that a path of progress is possible, not just regression.”

The Senate voted down that first attempt on 19 October. However, MPs from the left-wing party La France insoumise (France Unbowed) and Macron’s ruling centrist coalition struck a deal on the wording of a new clause. And on 24 November, members of the National Assembly successfully adopted that text in a bill to include abortion rights in the Constitution.

The wording was: “The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy.” It was passed with a huge majority: 337 for and only 32 against. Left-wing lawmaker Mathilde Panot told the Assembly that the aim is to prevent any regression. She dedicated the vote to women in Hungary, Poland and the United States.

Now the Assembly-approved text will presumably be placed before the Senate.

SOURCES: France24, 26 June 2022 ; rfi, by Amanda Morrow, 5 July 2022 ; Guardian, by Angelique Chrisafis, 20 October 2022 ; ClickOnDetroit, 24 November 2022 ; France 24, by Sylvie Corbet/Associated Press, 24 November 2022 + PHOTO by Sarah Meyssonier/Reuters