France enshrines right to abortion in constitution

France enshrines right to abortion in constitution
France's National Assemby. Credit: Wikipedia

The French parliament voted by a huge majority on Thursday to enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution, with 337 voting in favour of the text and 32 against it.

MPs on the left and the centre stated that the US Supreme Court's decision in June to reverse the constitutional right to abortion showed the need for further measures in France.

The vote in the National Assembly, France's lower house of Parliament, is only the first step towards ensuring the right to abortion in the constitution.

To amend the constitution, the bill needs to be approved by both the lower house and the Senate.

France's Senate is controlled by the right and in October, it rejected a bill that aimed to change the constitution to protect abortion rights and contraception access.

MPs from the left-wing La France Insoumise (LFI) and the centrist government coalition (Renaissance) on Thursday agreed to change a clause in the proposal, which passed with a large majority.

MPs from right-wing The Republicans (LR) and the far-right National Rally (RN) were divided on the issue.

Historic vote

Mathilde Panot, leader of LFI in Parliament, called the vote historic. "The assembly is speaking to the world, our country is speaking to the world," said an elated Panot, dedicating the bill to women in Hungary, Poland, and the United States.

Following the vote, MPs from LFI and Renaissance rose from their seats to applaud twice. Politicians on the right and far-right remained seated.

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Abortion has been legal in France since 1974. Abortion laws have since been amended several times, most recently in February to extend access to abortion to 14 weeks from 12 weeks.

Yet many Conservative and Catholic politicians have expressed doubts over further amending the country's abortion laws, considering it unnecessary given the laws already in place.

RN's leader, Marine Le Pen, called the proposal "totally misguided" earlier this week, saying that abortion rights are not under threat in France. She missed the vote for "medical reasons", according to a spokesperson.

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