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Vatican issues last-minute appeal as France votes to enshrine abortion

French parliament votes to enshrine abortion in Constitution


John Burger - published on 03/04/24

French Parliament meets in joint session to change Constitution.

Both the Vatican and the French bishops’ conference made last minute appeals as both houses of France’s parliament came together to enshrine the taking of an unborn human life into the country’s constitution.

The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life made it clear that there can be no “right” to take a human life. And the leadership of the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF) echoed calls for fasting and prayer launched by several Catholic associations.

France’s National Assembly and Senate, each of which passed a bill to include the guarantee of access to abortion in the Constitution, met together on Monday, March 4, to seek a three-fifths vote in order to enshrine the right to abortion into the Constitution.

Passage came with 780 out of 925 MPs and senators voting in favor. This makes France the first country in the world to explicitly write access to abortion into its Constitution, according to The New York Times.

“It’s not stating reproductive choices or the right to have children; it’s a very different language when you say access to abortion,” Anna Sledzinska-Simon, a professor of comparative constitutions and human rights law at the University of Wroclaw in Poland, told the newspaper. “The French are calling it by its name — that’s crucial.” She added: “The whole world is watching.”

The Pontifical Academy for Life on Monday said that in the era of universal human rights, “there cannot be a ‘right’ to taking a human life.” It called on governments and religious traditions around the world to make it an “absolute priority” to protect life and urged that political decisions be based “on a right which aims above all to protect the weakest and most vulnerable.”

How is it possible?

It was the second time the Vatican weighed in on the issue. In February, Vatican News published an editorial asking, “How is it possible to enshrine a norm that allows the death of a person in the fundamental Charter of a State while at the same time protecting the human person?”

For the French bishops, theirs was the second statement in two weeks. 

“Our country would have honored itself by instead promoting the rights of women and children,” the bishops stated on Monday. “Of all European countries, even Western Europe, France is the only one where the number of abortions is not decreasing and has even increased over the last two years. Many of our parliamentarians, no doubt, will vote for this text with the conviction of affirming an essential right; some, quite a few in fact, will vote for it ashamed and forced.”

The bishops continued: “As Catholics, we will always have to remain servants of the life of each and every one, from conception to death, artisans of respect for every human being which is always a gift given to all others, to support those who choose to keep their child even in difficult situations – and we are looking for new ways to do this – to surround with our respect and our compassion those who have had recourse to abortion. Let us humbly and urgently ask for grace. Above all, let us pray that our fellow citizens will rediscover the taste for life, for giving it, for receiving it, for accompanying it, for having and raising children.”

Last week, the Conference of Bishops expressed sadness after members of the French Senate voted overwhelmingly to enshrine abortion rights in the Constitution. The vote on February 28 was 267-50.

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