France Makes History, Enshrines Abortion Rights in Constitution

France took a historic step on Monday, becoming the first country in the world to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution. This move comes in response to growing concerns about restricted access to abortion, particularly after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the United States.

Lawmakers Overwhelmingly Approve Amendment

By a vote of 780 to 72, French lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the amendment, which guarantees “a freedom” to abortion. This vote was the final step in a legislative process that began earlier this year. While some groups desired even stronger language, explicitly calling it a “right,” the amendment clearly establishes abortion access as protected in France.

A Message of Support for Women

French officials hailed the vote as a landmark decision, sending a strong signal of support for women’s reproductive rights. Prime Minister Attal emphasized the “moral debt” to women who previously suffered through unsafe abortions and stated, “Your body belongs to you.” President Macron announced a celebration on International Women’s Rights Day to mark the amendment’s passage.

From Legalization to Constitutional Protection

France legalized abortion in 1975, following a campaign led by feminist icon Simone Veil. Unlike the US, where abortion is a highly politicized issue, France shows widespread public support for abortion rights. Some lawmakers who voted against the amendment did so because they viewed it as unnecessary, not because they opposed abortion itself.

US Supreme Court Decision Spurs Action

Prior to 2022, President Macron’s government didn’t see a need for the amendment. However, the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade prompted France to act. French officials stressed the importance of protecting fundamental rights, highlighting the US situation as a cautionary tale.

A First for Democracy

This amendment marks the 25th time the French constitution has been changed since 1958. The Catholic Church stands as one of the few groups opposing the amendment, arguing against the notion of a “right” to take a human life.

France’s historic move has undoubtedly sent a powerful message around the world, solidifying abortion rights within its core legal framework.

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