French deputies approved, this Thursday, to include abortion in the Constitution, the first step of an initiative to provide this right in the country, in response to the setbacks on the matter registered in the United States.
By 337 votes in favor and 32 against, the National Assembly (lower house) approved the bill promoted by the left, which now needs the approval of the Senate and the French in a referendum to enter into force.
“The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy”, says the proposed constitutional addition to Article 66.º.
The initiative was prompted by the explosive decision by the US this year to override this right at the federal level.
In Europe, Poland’s conservative government has also severely limited abortion rights.
French lawmaker Mathilde Panot argues that the proposal is necessary to protect the country “against a regression”. In her speech to parliament, she quoted the late French writer and women’s rights activist Simone de Beauvoir: “It only takes a political, economic or religious crisis for women’s rights to be called into question.”
The deal was a rare example of cooperation between the far-left and centrist allies of President Emmanuel Macron.
An earlier attempt to write the right to abortion and contraception into the constitution, with different wording, was rejected by the conservative-dominated Senate in October.
The new attempt, if approved by the Chamber of Deputies, also needs a green light in the Senate and then must be voted on in a national referendum.
Many conservative and Catholic politicians voiced their doubts, deeming the initiative unnecessary given existing legal protections. “It seems totally wrong to open a debate that, while it exists in the United States, does not exist in France,” far-right leader Marine Le Pen said in a statement this week. “No political group is thinking of questioning access to abortion,” she guaranteed.
Abortion was legalized in France in 1974 in a law championed by then-minister of health Simone Veil, a women’s rights icon who received the rare honor of being buried in the Pantheon by Macron after his death in 2018.