French MEPs vote to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution
Lawmakers in France’s parliament on Thursday voted to include abortion rights in the constitution in response to recent changes in Poland and the United States.
MEPs from the left-wing France Unbowed (LFI) party and the center-centre governing coalition agreed on the wording of the new clause, which was approved by a large majority.
“The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntary abortion,” says the proposed amendment to Article 66.
It passed by 337 votes in favor and 32 against, and the bill is now set to go to the conservative-majority Senate for approval.
The reason for the initiative was the controversial decision by the US Supreme Court this year to overturn the nationwide right to terminate proceedings for Americans.
Poland’s conservative government has also severely restricted abortion rights.
“The assembly speaks to the world, our country speaks to the world,” said jubilant LFI MP Mathilde Panot, dedicating the vote to women in Hungary, Poland and the United States.
Panot, who co-led the legislation with a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s party, said the move was necessary in France to protect itself “from regression”.
Abortion was legalized in France in 1974 by a law championed by Health Minister Simone Veil, a women’s rights icon who gave Macron the rare honor of being buried in the Pantheon after her death in 2018.
– Legal for 48 years –
A previous attempt to include abortion and contraceptive rights in the French constitution was rejected by the Senate in October with different wording.
This second attempt also needs the green light in the upper house and must then be voted on in a national referendum.
“It’s a big step… but it’s only the first step,” said center MP Sacha Houlie of Macron’s Renaissance Party.
Thursday’s deal was a rare example of harmony between the far-left LFI and Macron’s centrist allies in the hung and often ill-tempered National Assembly.
Macron’s minority government has repeatedly struggled to pass legislation and has found it difficult to work with the various political factions.
Many Conservative and Catholic politicians had expressed concerns about the abortion change, which they felt were unnecessary given the legal protections already in place.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose National Assembly is the largest single opposition party in parliament, earlier this week called her “completely out of place” because abortion rights are not threatened in France.
She voted Thursday for the change while her party’s lawmakers and right-wing Republicans abstained.