French MPs vote to enshrine abortion rights in constitution

French MPs vote to enshrine abortion rights in constitution

Demonstrators take part in an abortion rights rally in September.
Demonstrators take part in an abortion rights rally in September.

PARIS - Lawmakers in the French parliament voted Thursday to add the right to abortion to the constitution in response to recent changes in Poland and the United States.

Members of parliament from the left-wing France Unbowed (LFI) party and the ruling centrist coalition struck a deal on the wording of the new clause, which passed with a huge majority.

"The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy" reads the proposed constitutional addition to article 66.

It was approved with 337 votes for and 32 against, with the bill now set to be sent to the conservative-majority Senate for approval.

The initiative was prompted by the US Supreme Court's explosive decision this year to overturn the nationwide right to termination procedures for Americans.

The conservative government of Poland has also heavily restricted abortion rights.

"The assembly is speaking to the world, our country is speaking to the world," said jubilant MP Mathilde Panot from LFI, dedicating the vote to women in Hungary, Poland and the United States.

Panot, who spearheaded the legislation along with a member of President Emmanuel Macron's party, said the move was necessary in France to protect "against a regression".

Abortion was legalised in France in 1974 in a law championed by health minister Simone Veil, a women's rights icon granted the rare honour of burial at the Pantheon by Macron upon her death in 2018.

- Legal for 48 years -

A previous attempt to inscribe the right to abortion as well as contraception into the French constitution, with different wording, was rejected by the Senate in October.

This second attempt will also need a green light in the the upper chamber and must then be voted on in a national referendum.

"It's a big step... but it's just the first step," said centrist MP Sacha Houlie from Macron's Renaissance party.

Thursday's agreement was a rare instance of harmony between the hard-left LFI and Macron's centrist allies in the hung and often bad-tempered National Assembly.

Macron's minority government has repeatedly struggled to pass legislation, finding cooperation with the different political factions difficult.

Many conservative and Catholic politicians had announced their misgivings about the abortion change, seeing it as unnecessary given the legal protections already in place.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose National Rally is the biggest single opposition party in parliament, had called it "totally misplaced" earlier this week because abortion rights were not under threat in France.

She voted in favour of the change on Thursday, while MPs from her party and the right-wing Republicans abstained.

Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT (9)

CJ Express weighs B18-billion IPO

CJ Express Group Co, the retail chain founded by the energy drink tycoon Sathien Setthasit, is considering an initial public offering to raise at least 18 billion baht, according to people familiar with the matter.

20:01

UK royals show ruthlessness in race row

LONDON: The timing could not have been worse for Britain's royal family, not long after one racial reckoning involving Prince Harry and ahead of a new publicity blitz from the maverick "spare heir".

19:45

Making a point

Points deduction system for traffic violations will begin on Jan 9, with the loss of all points resulting in a 90-day suspension of drivers’ licences.

18:42