Urged on by the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, and driven by fears that recent restrictions on abortion in the US will prove contagious for Europe, the French Parliament has begun a process to enshrine abortion in its constitution.
The lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to pass a measure that would eventually lead to making the right to “voluntarily interrupt” one’s pregnancy a constitutional right, The New York Times reported.
Macron and his government proposed the bill, and the vote in the Assembly was 493-30. Most of the political parties in France are pro-abortion.
The French March for Life condemned the bill when it was introduced on December 12.
“The Veil Law decriminalized abortion in 1975, and more than 10 million abortions have been recorded since then, including for children disabled up to the day before their birth. This new project is incongruous, indecent and dangerous. It is only a societal diversion in the obvious failure of this government,” March for Life said in a statement. “The only freedom of a woman under threat today is that of being able to keep her child.”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health “set off alarm bells in Europe and galvanized efforts in France to protect the right as inalienable,” the Times said.
“Activists have also made the case that abortion rights are increasingly under threat in European countries like Poland and Italy, making it all the more urgent to enshrine it in France in case future governments try to roll it back,” the newspaper said.
Even the legislation’s language cites Dobbs and trends in other countries as threats to the right to abortion.
Question about bill’s fate
In spite of broad support in France for abortion, advocates are worried that the French Senate might not be so wholeheartedly onboard with the effort to enshrine abortion in the constitution.
“The bill now heads to the Senate — controlled by right-wing lawmakers who are uneasy with the proposal’s wording — which must approve the measure before the Constitution can be amended,” said the Times.
The upper house is expected to start discussing the bill in late February. The two chambers have to agree on exactly the same version, and then the measure would have to be approved by either three-fifths of lawmakers from both houses gathered for a special session or by a popular referendum.
“France’s lower house approved a version of the amendment in 2022, but the Senate significantly modified it, and the differences were not resolved, so the bill died,” the Times said. “While the lower house wanted to enshrine a ‘right,’ the Senate was in favor of inscribing only a ‘freedom’ to abortion. The government then came under pressure to put forth its own bill, which Mr. Macron approved last year.”
Meanwhile, French March for Life urged more policies to prevent abortion, “and to remedy the demographic collapse that we are experiencing in our country.” It also warned that the constitutional amendment would lead to the removal of conscience protections for doctors.