Updated January 31st, 2024 at 07:26 IST

France to Include Abortion Rights in Constitution, National Assembly Votes Overwhelmingly

French Assembly, with 493 in favor and 30 against, approves a historic bill constitutionally safeguarding abortion rights amidst challenges post-Roe v. Wade.

Reported by: Digital Desk
France to Include Abortion Rights in Constitution | Image:safeabortionwomensright.org

Paris: The French National Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a historic bill that aims to include the right to abortion in the country's constitution. The lower house of the French parliament witnessed a vote with 493 lawmakers in favour and 30 against the proposed legislation. The bill now proceeds to the Senate for further debate and voting, with potential adoption by a special body comprising both chambers of the parliament.

The urgency for constitutionalization gained momentum after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Left-wing lawmakers and women's rights activists had long championed this cause, fearing the possibility of a rollback of reproductive rights similar to what occurred in the United States.


Justice Minister Éric Dupont-Moretti  underlined the importance of learning from history, stating, "We now have irrefutable proof that no democracy, not even the largest of them all, is immune." If the bill becomes law, France will become the first country globally to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution, marking a historic moment for reproductive rights.

Political and Ministerial Responses

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal hailed the vote as "a great victory for women’s rights," while Gender Equality Minister Aurore Bergé called it "historic." Bergé highlighted the global context, pointing to the rise in anti-abortion movements and rollbacks on abortion rights in other countries. She argued that constitutionalization is crucial to permanently safeguard abortion rights, especially in the face of potential conservative shifts in politics.

Despite the approval in the National Assembly, the bill's journey to becoming law faces further hurdles. A vote in the Senate is scheduled for February, followed by another in the French Congress. The adoption of the bill requires a three-fifths majority vote in the latter, anticipated to occur by International Women’s Day on March 8, 2024.


Opposition to Constitutionalize Abortion

Gérard Lacher, the president of the French Senate, in opposition to the bill, argued that constitutionalization is unnecessary as he believes "abortion is not threatened in our country." Some right-wing lawmakers share similar viewpoints, asserting that abortion rights in France are not in imminent danger.


The move to constitutionalize abortion in France is not isolated but is influenced by global trends. Recent restrictions on abortion in Hungary and Poland, along with the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the US, have fueled concerns among French lawmakers. The hope is that France's proactive stance can serve as inspiration for other nations facing challenges to reproductive rights.

Symbolism vs Practicality

While critics argue that the bill may not directly address on-the-ground issues, such as difficulties in accessing abortion services in rural areas, proponents see it as a symbolic and groundbreaking move. French singer-songwriter Barbara Pravi, who had an abortion at 17, expressed her desire for the bill to provide hope to women worldwide, stating, “It could take...five, six, seven, maybe 10 years. But I know that my children will never think about the question [of] abortion.”

Lawmaker Guillaume Gouffier Valent echoed this sentiment, underlining that the law sends a powerful message to current and future generations, defending women's rights on a universal scale.


Published January 31st, 2024 at 07:26 IST