France to make abortion a constitutional right after senate vote

French President Emmanuel Macron said he would call a special Congress session of the two chambers at Versailles palace on March 4 for a final vote.

February 29, 2024 11:30 am | Updated 12:30 pm IST - Paris

Pro-abortion rights activists hold banner reads ‘abortion is a fundamental right’ during a rally for abortion rights outside La Sorbonne university in Paris, Wednesday Feb. 28, 2024.

Pro-abortion rights activists hold banner reads ‘abortion is a fundamental right’ during a rally for abortion rights outside La Sorbonne university in Paris, Wednesday Feb. 28, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

France’s Senate backed a government move to enshrine the “freedom” to have an abortion in the constitution which will now be voted on at a special congress.

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 U.S. Supreme Court in 2022 overturned the half-century-old right to the procedure, allowing states to ban or curtail abortion.

Despite opposition from some conservative members, the upper chamber voted by 267 votes to 50 to back the constitutional change.

The lower-house National Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favour of making abortion a “guaranteed freedom” in January, with almost all members of Mr. Macron’s centrist minority coalition as well as left-wing opposition parties approving it.

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Mr. Macron said he would call a special Congress session of the two chambers at Versailles palace on March 4 for a final vote. Mr. Macron welcomed what he called a “decisive step” by the Senate in his announcement on X.

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 plan faced some opposition from right-wing senators and the government chose the expression “guaranteed freedom” as an apparent compromise between both houses.

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.

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 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.

A survey by French polling company IFOP in November 2022 found 86% of French people supported making abortion a constitutional right.

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