French lawmakers approve bill that makes abortion constitutional right

The government contends in its bill introduction that abortion rights are under threat in the United States, with potential global ramifications.
French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal speaks during the Congress of both Houses of Parliament.
Posted at 1:16 PM, Mar 04, 2024

French lawmakers approved a bill that will enshrine a woman's right to an abortion in the French Constitution during a historic joint session of parliament in at the Palace of Versailles on Monday.

The bill was approved in an overwhelming 780-72 vote, and nearly the entire joint session stood in a long standing ovation.

There were jubilant scenes of celebrations all over France as women's rights activists hailed the measure promised by President Emmanuel Macron following a rollback of abortion rights in court rulings in the United States.

Both houses of parliament, the National Assembly and the Senate, have already adopted a bill to amend Article 34 of the French Constitution to specify a woman's right to an abortion is guaranteed.

Macron’s government wants Article 34 of the French Constitution amended to specify that “the law determines the conditions by which is exercised the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed.”

In the lead-up to the historic vote, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal addressed the 925 lawmakers gathered for the joint session in Versailles, and called on them to make France a leader in women's rights and set an example in defense of women's rights for countries around the world.

“We have a moral debt to women,” Attal said. He paid tribute to Simone Veil, a prominent legislator, former health minister and key feminist who in 1975 championed the bill that decriminalized abortion in France.

“We have a chance to change history,” Attal said in a moving and determined speech. “Make Simone Veil proud," he said to a standing ovation.

With the right to an abortion added to the constitution, it will be much harder to prevent women from voluntarily terminating a pregnancy in France, women’s rights and equality activists said.

“We increased the level of protection to this fundamental right,” said Anne-Cécile Mailfert of the Women’s Foundation. “It’s a guarantee for women today and in the future to have the right to abort in France.”

The government argued in its introduction to the bill that the right to abortion is threatened in the United States, where the Supreme Court in 2022 overturned a50-year-old ruling that used to guarantee it.

“Unfortunately, this event is not isolated: in many countries, even in Europe, there are currents of opinion that seek to hinder at any cost the freedom of women to terminate their pregnancy if they wish,” the introduction to the French legislation says.

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