France takes next steps to enshrine abortion as a constitutional ‘freedom’


Lawmakers in France are one step closer to recognizing a constitutional right to abortion in the country.

On February 1, the French Senate approved adding an amendment to the country’s constitution that would recognize the right to abortion. The proposed language reads, “The law guarantees the effectiveness of and equal access to the freedom for a woman to end her pregnancy.”

According to Evangelical Focus, the 166-152 vote to approve the amendment came as a surprise, since just last week the conservative-majority Senate rejected the draft text of the law, and last October, senators voted against enshrining abortion as a constitutional right.

However, in an effort to garner support, Senator Philippe Bas amended the proposed wording to define abortion as a “freedom” instead of a “right,” and that change was enough to win a majority vote.

“My counter-proposal aims to guarantee the balance of current abortion law […] There is a freedom that can be enshrined in the Constitution but on condition that there is a conciliation between the right of the pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy and the protection of the unborn child after a certain period of time,” explained Bas.

Despite this explanation, it is unclear what rights, if any, would be given to preborn children at any time, given that the language would allow women the “freedom” to kill a child via abortion.

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Though the legality of abortion is not under threat in France, abortion advocates are pushing for the constitutional change in response to the overturn of Roe v. Wade in America. “Guaranteeing the right to an abortion in the constitution would be more than a symbolic move. In every country, as soon as the far right comes to power, the first things they go after are women’s rights and the rights of LGBT people. This would make it much harder for leaders to outlaw abortion, by enshrining it as a fundamental right,” Sarah Durocher, the co-president of Family Planning France told The Times.

Despite the text change winning enough votes, many of those within Bas’ own party still rejected the idea of an amendment. “The constitution is not made to send symbolic messages to the entire world,” Senate Republicans’ president Bruno Retailleau said.

The constitutional amendment was first introduced by the National Assembly, which passed it by a large majority in November. Because the two parties have to agree to identical bills, the measure will now head back to the Assembly, which has to approve the language change. Once the two parties agree on the text, the measure will be brought before voters in a referendum. If it does pass a vote, France would be the first country to enshrine the right to abortion in its constitution.

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