France makes abortion a constitutional right

France makes abortion a constitutional right

Voting at the Palace of Versailles called “historic”

The French parliament enshrined abortion as a constitutional right in a historic joint session at the Palace of Versailles. Of the 925 deputies and senators eligible to vote, 780 supported the amendment, which would give women “guaranteed freedom” to choose a method of abortion.

There was thunderous applause in the hall when the result was announced on Monday; in the center of Paris, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated to commemorate the event.

According to The Guardian, this measure had already been adopted by the upper and lower houses of parliament, the Senate and the National Assembly, but changes to the constitution required the final approval of parliamentarians at a joint session in Versailles.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told those gathered in the luxurious congress hall in the palace's Midi Wing: “We are haunted by the suffering and memory of so many women who were not free. We have a moral duty [перед всеми женщинами, которые] suffered in the flesh. Today the present must respond to history. To enshrine this right in our constitution is to close the door on the tragedy of the past and its trail of suffering and pain. This will further prevent reactionaries from attacking women. Let us not forget that a series of oppressions can be repeated. Let us act so that this does not happen, so that this day never comes.”

The head of the French government added: “I say to all women within our borders and beyond that today begins an era of peace of hope.”

Mathilde Panot, a member of parliament from the far-left France Unconquered party, which has proposed including abortion rights in the constitution, told the crowd that it was a "promise... for all women who struggle [за них] worldwide".

She added: “Your fight is our fight. This victory is yours.”

President Emmanuel Macron said he has vowed to make women's freedom to choose abortion “irreversible.” The inclusion of abortion rights in the constitution, which included amendments to Article 34, paragraph 17 defining the law and its limits, was seen as a way to protect the law that decriminalized abortion in France in 1975.

During a national assembly debate on the law in January, Justice Minister Eric Dupont-Moretti told MPs that abortion rights are not just a freedom like any other “because they allow women to decide their future.”

Aurora Berger, minister for equality and anti-discrimination, added: “This vote will be one of the most important and remarkable in this parliament.”

Once both chambers agreed on the wording of the legal text, Macron had a choice: hold a national referendum or convene a joint parliamentary “congress” of 577 deputies and 348 senators at Versailles, where three-fifths of the votes cast were required for passage.

Monday's meeting is the first to introduce changes to the constitution since 2008, when Nicolas Sarkozy took steps to modernize French institutions, including limiting presidents to a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms.

Since 1958, the parliamentary congress has met 16 times and made 21 changes to the constitution.

Political momentum for constitutional change came after the U.S. Supreme Court's 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which recognized women's constitutional right to abortion and legalized it nationwide.

Right-wing GOP senators voted against the first attempt to change the Constitution in October 2022. Later that year, the French parliament voted to extend the legal period for terminating pregnancies in France from 12 to 14 weeks, amid outrage that thousands of women were forced to travel abroad each year for abortions in countries such as the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

Anti-abortion protesters gathered at Versailles outside the palace to oppose constitutional changes.

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