France senators signal openness to constitutional freedom of abortion

AFP - [email protected]
France senators signal openness to constitutional freedom of abortion
Women hold a banner reading "Abortion is a fundamental right" during a rally to support women's right to abortion. Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP

A French Senate committee said on Wednesday it was "not against" enshrining the freedom to have an abortion in the constitution ahead of a vote in the upper chamber this month.


President Emmanuel Macron last year pledged to inscribe the right to abortion - which has been legal in France since 1974 - in the constitution after the US Supreme Court in 2022 ended an almost half-century national constitutional right to the procedure.

The measure would not change the current right to access abortion in France, but would make it harder for any future government to place limits on the right.

France's lower-house National Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favour of the measure as a "guaranteed freedom" in late January, with almost all members of Macron's centrist minority coalition as well as left-wing opposition parties approving.

The plan has also received wide public backing with more than 85 percent of people polled saying they were in favour of the idea of enshrining the right in the constitution. 

But the plan still needs backing from the Senate in a February 28th vote, where it faces resistance from the right-wing Les Républicains and the far-right Rassemblement National.


The Senate's law "committee has decided not to oppose enshrining in the constitution the freedom to resort to an abortion," Republican senator Agnes Canayer said on Wednesday.

"We are not against it but the proposed text still contains a certain number of irritants," she said.

Debate so far has focused on the wording of the suggested amendment.

The government chose the term "guaranteed freedom" as an apparent compromise between both houses.

The lower house in 2022 approved enshrining the "right" to an abortion, while the Senate last year was in favour of adding the "freedom" to resort to it.

Changes to the French constitution require either a referendum or approval by three-fifths of a combined vote of both chambers of parliament.

Only if the Senate approves the government's exact wording can a combined vote of both chambers be held on March 5th.

If it requests even the slightest change, a new version of the bill will again have to be approved by the lower house.


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