France | MEPs enshrine the right to abortion in the Constitution

(Paris) Lawmakers in the lower house of the French parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution to enshrine the right to abortion in the country’s Constitution, the first step in a long and uncertain legislative battle caused by the rollback of the right to abortion in the United States.

The measure was approved by 337 deputies voting for and 32 against in the 557-member National Assembly.

To be validated, any measure must first be approved by a majority in the National Assembly and in the upper house, the Senate, and then in a national referendum.

The authors of the proposal, from a left-wing coalition, argued that the measure was intended to “protect and guarantee the fundamental right to voluntary termination of pregnancy and contraception by enshrining it in the Constitution”.

Abortion in France was decriminalized under a law in 1975, but nothing in the Constitution guarantees the right to abortion.

The president of the left-wing group La France insoumise in the National Assembly, Mathilde Panot, who is also a co-signatory of the proposal, said: “Our intention is clear: we do not want to give any chance to people opposed to the right to abortion. and contraception. »

French Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti has indicated that the centrist government supports the initiative.

He referenced the US Supreme Court ruling in June, which eliminated the federal constitutional right to abortion and left the decision to the states.

“The right to abortion that we thought had been acquired for 50 years (in the United States) was in reality not acquired at all,” he said.

A recent poll showed that more than 80% of the French population supports the right to abortion. These results were consistent with previous surveys. The same poll also showed that a solid majority of people are in favor of enshrining it in the Constitution.

Another bill aimed at enshrining the right to abortion in the Constitution, initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist political party, Renaissance, will also be debated in the lower house, the National Assembly, on Monday. This text contains no mention of the right to contraception.

The two proposals are only the first step in a long process with no certain outcome.

The Senate, where the right-wing Les Républicains has the majority, rejected a similar proposal in September. The Republican senators argued that the measure was not necessary since the right to abortion is not threatened in France.

Minister Dupond-Moretti said he had “the hope” that some senators could change their minds and form a majority in his favour.

Mr. Dupond-Moretti and other supporters of constitutional change argue that French lawmakers should take no risks on fundamental rights, because it is easier to change the law than the Constitution.

Abortion rights enjoy broad support across the French political spectrum, including Marine Le Pen’s far-right political party, Rassemblement National.

However, Le Pen has said in recent days that she opposes the left-wing proposal because she believes it could potentially lead to extending or abolishing the time frame within which a pregnancy can be terminated.

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