France's Senate votes to make abortion a constitutional 'freedom'

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France's Senate votes to make abortion a constitutional 'freedom'
French Senators voted in favour of enshrining the freedom to have an abortion in the French Constitution. Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

France's Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a government move to enshrine the freedom to have an abortion in the French constitution.


President Emmanuel Macron last year pledged to put the right to terminate a pregnancy - which has been legal in France since 1974 - into the constitution after the US Supreme Court in 2022 overturned the half-century-old right to the procedure, allowing states to ban or curtail abortion.

France's Assemblée nationale had already overwhelmingly voted in favour (337 for and 32 against) of enshrining the right to abortion in the constitution in January, but it was thought that the male-dominated and traditionally more socially conservative Senate might block the plan.

In the event, however, it passed easily - the upper chamber voted by 267 votes to 50 to back the constitutional change.


Macron said he would call a special Congress session of the two chambers at Versailles palace on Monday, March 4th for a final vote.

The move will not change anything on a day-to-day level in France, where abortion has been legal since 1974, but it would make it much harder for any future government to curtail the rights of women to terminate pregnancies.

READ ALSO How can France's constitution be changed?

Macron on Wednesday evening welcomed what he called a "decisive step" by the Senate.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said France was on the verge of a "historic day" when it becomes "the first country in the world to protect in its constitution the freedom of women" to decide what happens to their bodies.

The lower house in 2022 had approved enshrining the "right" to an abortion, while the Senate last year was in favour of adding the "freedom" to resort to the procedure - in the end a compromise wording was agreed to add the "guaranteed freedom" to abortion into the constitution.

However before the full vote, a Senate committee on Wednesday rejected motions from the right to amend the text of the proposed revision.

In private several right-wing senators said they felt under social pressure to approve the change.

"If I vote against it, my daughters will no longer come for Christmas," said one woman senator who asked to remain anonymous, while other senators told French media that they would vote in favour of the motion because they are "fed up with being yelled at by my wife and daughter".

The move has huge public support - a survey by French polling company IFOP in November 2022 found 86 percent of French people supported making abortion a constitutional right.


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Matthew 2024/03/01 09:26
@Rissone - The Local has this article, which summarises the legal position on abortion in France.
Matthew 2024/03/01 09:24
I'm a little surprised at the tone of this article that seems to think that senators following the overwhelming majority of voters in agreeing to the change is some how bad. You prioritise the extreme views above the fact that the change (and indeed, the stronger version that the Assemblée favoured) is overwhelmingly popular here. Democracy is not a game, or an entertainment show.
Rissone 2024/02/29 16:43
Are there any restrictions as to how far in gestation, or for what reason the abortion can be performed?
Paul Griffiths 2024/02/29 09:30

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