As of Tuesday, France is about to become one of the first countries in the world where the Constitution enshrines the right to abortion. The National Assembly adopted the first reading, as planned, to write in Article 34 of the basic law the following paragraph: “The law determines the conditions under which the freedom guaranteed to women to resort to a termination is used.”
As of Tuesday, France is about to become one of the first countries in the world where the Constitution enshrines the right to abortion. The National Assembly adopted in the first reading, as planned, to write in Article 34 of the basic law the following paragraph: “The law determines the conditions under which the freedom guaranteed to women resorts to a voluntary stoppage of work used during pregnancy.”
493 deputies from the party bloc of President Emmanuel Macron and the left voted in favor of the bill, and 30 from the right and the extreme right voted against it. Now the text must go to the Senate, where the conservative majority of Los Republicanos, the sister party of the Spanish PP, can stop the process or at least change the version in the National Assembly.
The president of the Senate, the conservative Gérard Larcher, declared himself against it a few days ago: “The voluntary termination of pregnancy is not threatened in our country. If it is threatened, believe me, I will fight to keep it.”
After the vote this Tuesday, the Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti, said to the room: “The National Assembly and the Government did not miss their teaching on women’s history. Now I will be in charge of bringing your message to the Senate.”
In order to approve a constitutional reform, the Senate and the National Assembly must first adopt the same text. It is then submitted to a vote in Congress, which is the format of the two chambers that meet. The reform is decisively adopted if it gets at least three-fifths of the votes in Congress.
The first initiatives in France to write the right to abortion in the Constitution were presented as a response to the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that, in the summer of 2022, dismissed the historic Roe v. Wade rule and restrictions in European countries such as Poland. The idea is to protect this right from the possibility that, at some point, a leader or party with a parliamentary majority will come to power to suppress the French law of 1973.
In November 2022, the National Assembly approved, with 337 votes in favor and 32 against, to write in the Constitution the “right to voluntary termination of pregnancy.” The law is a left-wing initiative with the support of the Macronists and follows a procedure that would have led to a referendum, with perhaps a more uncertain outcome.
In February 2023, the Senate adopted its version of the text. He no longer talks about “the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy,” but “a woman’s freedom to terminate her pregnancy.” The difference between “right” and “freedom” has sparked debate. The proposal carries the risk of being shelved.
In March, during a national tribute to the historic lawyer and feminist Gisèle Halimi, Macron concluded: “And now I want the force of (his) message to help us change our Constitution so that it enshrines the freedom of women who resort to the voluntary termination of pregnancy, in order to solemnly ensure that nothing hinders or hinders what, in this way, cannot be changed.”
In December, the president presented a compromise project aimed at gathering the greatest consensus and ensuring its adoption by Congress with votes from the left, center, and right. That’s why the text adopted on Tuesday speaks, instead of “right,” of “guaranteed freedom,” an expression that is particularly pleasing to conservatives in the Senate. Now they have the key.