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France Declares Abortion as a Fundamental Constitutional Right

Alt Text: French parliamentarians vote in favor of amending the constitution to recognize abortion as a fundamental right, amidst widespread support and opposition. Vatican and anti-abortion groups criticize the move.

French parliamentarians have voted in favor of amending the country’s 1958 constitution to explicitly recognize and protect women’s right to abortion. With an impressive 780-72 majority, the announcement of the result in the Versailles parliament was met with a standing ovation. President Emmanuel Macron hailed the development as a source of “French pride” and a “universal message.” While the decision has garnered praise worldwide, it has also faced criticism from anti-abortion groups and the Vatican.

France Adds Amendment to Constitution

Abortion has been legal in France for over four decades since 1975. However, a recent poll suggests that approximately 85% of the public wanted to safeguard the right to end a pregnancy by amending the country’s constitution. France is the first country to outline abortion as a guaranteed right in its constitution, while others include reproductive rights in their founding documents.

The amendment is France’s 25th and its first since 2008, garnering an outpouring of support throughout the country. Upon the announcement of the amendment, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was illuminated with a message: “My Body My Choice.” Prior to the vote, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal warned that the right to access abortion remained precarious, emphasizing the importance of passing the amendment. “We’re sending a message to all women: your body belongs to you and no one can decide for you,” he stated.

Sparking controversies and debates

Critics argue that while the revision itself may not be objectionable, it is deemed unnecessary, with allegations that the president aims to bolster his left-wing image through this cause.

Since 1975, France has updated its abortion law nine times, consistently aiming to enhance access. Notably, the country’s Constitutional Council, responsible for assessing the constitutionality of laws, has not raised any concerns regarding abortion. In a 2001 ruling, the council justified abortion based on the principle of liberty enshrined in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, which technically falls within the constitution. Consequently, many legal experts affirm that abortion was already considered a constitutional right.

France Takes Action in Response to US Abortion Controversy

The recent removal of the right to abortion by the US Supreme Court in 2022, allowing individual states to ban the procedure, has prompted France to take action. The decision to engrave the right to abortion in the French constitution has been widely applauded. Laura Slimani, representing the Fondation des Femmes rights group, expressed the concern that the right to abortion had regressed in the United States and highlighted the need to safeguard it in France.

Support for the constitutional change stems from strong emotions as feminist activists and women recognize the significance of this decision. However, there are opposing views, with the Vatican reaffirming its opposition to abortion. In a statement, the Vatican stressed that there can be no “right” to take a human life, aligning with concerns expressed by French Catholic bishops. The institution called for all governments and religious traditions to prioritize the protection of life in this phase of history.

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