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Women in France get the right to an abortion enshrined

By Earle Gale in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-03-01 06:36
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A woman holds a placard that reads "My body, my uterus, my choice" and "Never again" during a demonstration organized by the collective "Abortion Europe, women decide" as the French Senate examines a bill to include abortion in the Constitution, at the Place de la Sorbonne in Paris, France  on Feb 28. [Photo/Agencies]

Women in France will soon have a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

The right will be enshrined in the nation's Constitution next week, after members of the country's upper house, the senate, backed the constitutional change on Wednesday, by 267 votes to 50.

The country's lower house, the National Assembly, approved the amendment in January.

A meeting on Monday of both the upper and lower houses of Parliament will give lawmakers the chance to rubber-stamp the change. Pundits say the constitutional amendment will easily win support from the three-fifths of lawmakers needed for it to become law.

Women in France have had easy access to legal, government-funded abortions ever since the procedure was decriminalized in 1974, but politicians promised to enshrine that access in the Constitution after human rights campaigners raised fears the right could be eroded following similar moves in other nations.

France's Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said during the debate: "When women's rights are attacked in the world, France stands up and places itself at the avant garde of progress."

The United States Supreme Court's decision in 2022 to overturn women's right to an abortion in that nation was one of the triggers for the debate in France, alongside recent limitations on access to abortions in Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Spain.

France's President Emmanuel Macron posted on X that he wanted to ensure women's freedom to resort to termination was "irreversible".

The Guardian newspaper quoted Eric Dupond-Moretti, France's justice minister, as saying: "This vote is historic … It states to all those who don't yet know it that the women in our country are free … and to what point we are attached to that freedom."

Ian Brossat, a senator from France's Communist party, added that the senate's decision was "a victory for women across the world".

Lawmakers have been aware of the popularity of the constitutional amendment among ordinary French citizens. An Ifop opinion poll taken in November 2022, as the National Assembly debated the legislation, found approval for the idea among 86 percent of the population.

But the AFP news agency said some rightwing lawmakers who have supported the change have done so reluctantly, under pressure from party leaders and the wider society.

"If I vote against it, my daughters will no longer come for Christmas," AFP quoted one unnamed female senator as saying.

The state-owned television news network France 24 said the impending constitutional change will make France the first country in the world to have enshrined the right to an abortion in its Constitution.

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