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France To Make Abortion Constitutional Right

FRENCH lawmakers will on Monday, March 4, 2024, anchor the right to abortion in the country’s constitution, in a global first that has garnered overwhelming public support.

A congress of both houses of parliament in Versailles starting at 3:30 pm (1430 GMT) is expected to find the three-fifths majority needed for the change after it overcame initial resistance in the right-leaning Senate.

If Congress approves the move, France will become the only country in the world to clearly protect the right to terminate a pregnancy in its basic law.


President Emmanuel Macron pledged last year to include enshrine abortion – legal in France since 1975 – in the constitution after the United States Supreme Court in 2022 overturned the half-century-old right to the procedure, allowing states to ban or curtail it.

France’s lower-house National Assembly in January overwhelmingly approved making abortion a “guaranteed freedom” in the constitution, followed by the Senate on Wednesday.

The bill is now expected to clear the final hurdle of a combined vote of both chambers when they gather for a rare joint session at the former royal residence of the Palace of Versailles.

Few expect any difficulty finding the needed super majority after the three-fifths mark was largely exceeded in both previous ballots.

When political campaigning began in earnest in 1971, “we could never have imagined that the right to abortion would one day be written into the constitution,” the head of the Femmes Monde (Women in the World) association, Claudine Monteil, told AFP.

Monteil was the youngest signatory to “Manifesto of the 343”, a 1971 French petition signed by 343 women who admitted to having illegally ended a pregnancy, along with up to 800,000 of their compatriots each year.

Abortion was legalised in France in 1975 in a law championed by health minister Simone Veil, a women’s rights icon granted the rare honour of burial at the Pantheon after her death in 2018.

Chile included the right to elective abortion in a draft for a new progressive constitution in 2022, but voters rejected the text in a referendum.

Some countries allude to the right.

Cuba’s constitution guarantees women’s “reproductive and sexual rights”.

Several Balkan states have inherited versions of former Yugoslavia’s 1974 constitution that said it was a human right to “decide on the birth of children”.

In Kenya, for example, the constitution says “abortion is not permitted unless, in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.”

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