FRANCE – France becomes the first country to enshrine abortion rights in the national Constitution

Image: Advocates for abortion rights and women’s health!

On 4 March 2024, in an historic vote at Versailles in both houses of the parliament, France enshrined the right to abortion in the Constitution. The vote was 780 to 72. The result drew a standing ovation among most of the lawmakers (watch it here). At the Place du Trocadéro near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, hundreds of people had gathered to watch the proceedings on a giant screen. The crowd also cheered as the vote count was announced.

recent poll in France found that 90% of respondents supported the right to an abortion and 86% wanted to see it in the constitution. Yet it has taken more than a year for both the National Assembly and the Senate to agree on the actual wording. The Assembly first passed a bill on 24 November 2022 by 337 to 32. There was controversy in the Senate, however, where the wording “freedom to have an abortion” was approved instead of the Assembly’s wording of “right to an abortion”. This meant the bill had to go back to the Assembly and start over. The final approved text, now a year later, defines abortion as a “guaranteed freedom”.

But as we heard from our French colleagues in the Europe network meeting a few days after this success, it is still not always easy to get an abortion in France, especially because the current legal upper time limit forces women needing later abortions to travel outside the country. Even a clause in the Constitution on its own will not change that. Action and policy reform are still neccessary!

SOURCES: NPR, 4 March 2024 ; PHOTOS: France24 English 4 March 2024; and photos/report by Véronique Sehier, Rapporteure de “Droits sexuels et reproductifs en Europe, entre menaces et progrés”, de la Délégation Droits des Femmes et Egalité du CESE, 6 March 2024