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France To Make History, Become First Country To Enshrine Abortion Rights In Constitution

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France is geared to become the first country in the world to explicitly enshrine abortion rights in its constitution.

A total of 925 members of the National Assembly and the Senate will travel by bus to Versailles on Monday afternoon to vote on amending Article 34 of the constitution in order to “guarantee the freedom of women to have access to an abortion”.

According to RFI, three-fifths of them need to vote for the amendment in order for it to pass; and if they do, as expected, France will become the only country in the world to clearly protect the right to terminate a pregnancy in its basic law.

The government said in its introduction to the bill that the change was needed after the rollback of abortion rights in the United States, where in June 2022 the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that guaranteed access to the procedure nationwide.

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Since then, some 20 states have banned abortion outright or severely restricted access, while others have moved to protect it.

The move to enshrine abortion rights in the French constitution passed its biggest hurdle on Wednesday, when it was adopted by the Senate.

Elected officials and NGOs welcomed the result. Planning familial (Planned Parenthood) called it “a message of hope to feminists around the world”, while hard left MP Mathilde Panot said: “We are writing history.”

The Osez le Féminisme (Dare Feminism) activist group hailed the move as a “victory for feminists and for all women who want to guarantee the right to control their body”.

Alice Bordaçarre, head of Women’s rights and gender equality at the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), said taking steps to enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution would shield it from attack.

She warned that “entire rights”, or pro-life, groups’ voices were getting louder in France and other countries – especially the US, Brazil, and Russia – supported by the Vatican.

“Some of the conservative parliamentarians [in France] are using the same arguments,” she told France 24, adding that “women’s rights are human rights”.

While abortion and access to contraception has been legal in France since 1975 under the Veil Act, there was nothing preventing successive governments from rolling back the law.

Rights organisations have said enshrining the law as a constitutional right would protect it from political manipulation and fluctuations in public opinion.

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