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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 23 April 2024

French lawmakers approve bill that makes abortion a constitutional right in France

The bill was approved in an overwhelming 780-72 vote, and nearly the entire joint session stood in a long standing ovation

AP Paris Published 05.03.24, 02:06 PM

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French lawmakers approved a bill that will enshrine a woman's right to an abortion in the French Constitution during a historic joint session of parliament in at the Palace of Versailles on Monday.

The bill was approved in an overwhelming 780-72 vote, and nearly the entire joint session stood in a long standing ovation.

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There were jubilant scenes of celebrations all over France as women's rights activists hailed the measure promised by President Emmanuel Macron following a rollback of abortion rights in court rulings in the United States.

Both houses of parliament, the National Assembly and the Senate, have already adopted a bill to amend Article 34 of the French Constitution to specify a woman's right to an abortion is guaranteed.

The measure was promised by President Emmanuel Macron following a rollback of abortion rights in court rulings in the United States.

The lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, overwhelmingly approved the proposal in January. The Senate adopted the bill on Wednesday, clearing a key hurdle for legislation promised by Macron's government, intended to make “a woman's right to have an abortion irreversible”.

The measure must be approved by a three-fifths majority in the joint session.

None of France's major political parties represented in parliament has questioned the right to abortion, which was decriminalised in 1975. With both houses of parliament having adopted the bill, Monday's joint session at the Palace of Versailles is expected to be largely a formality.

The right to an abortion has broad support among the French public. A recent poll showed support at over 80 per cent, consistent with previous surveys. The same poll also showed that a solid majority of people are in favour of enshrining it in the constitution.

With the right to an abortion added to the Constitution, it will be much harder to change the law that would prevent women from voluntarily terminating a pregnancy in France, women's rights and equality activists said.

“We increased the level of protection to this fundamental right,” said Anne-Cécile Mailfert of the Women's Foundation. She added: “It's a guarantee for women today and in the future to have the right to abort in France.”

The government argued in its introduction to the bill that the right to abortion is threatened in the United States, where the Supreme Court in 2022 overturned a 50-year-old ruling that used to guarantee it.

“Unfortunately, this event is not isolated: in many countries, even in Europe, there are currents of opinion that seek to hinder at any cost the freedom of women to terminate their pregnancy if they wish,” the introduction to the French legislation says.

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