France Makes Abortion a Constitutional Right

French lawmakers have voted to enshrine abortion in the constitution in response to restricting abortion rights in the United States.

In a historic vote on Monday, both houses of the French Parliament voted 780 to 72 to make abortion a constitutional right.

The French Senate and National Assembly approved the bill by an overwhelming majority earlier this year.

The country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, pledged to enshrine abortion in the constitution after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping away federal protections for abortion in 2022.

Gabriel Attal, the prime minister, warned that the oppression of women could happen again.

“I say to all women within our borders and beyond that today, the era of a world of hope begins,” Attal said before the vote.

The Vatican repeated its opposition to the bill on Monday, insisting that “in the era of universal human rights, there cannot be a ‘right’ to taking a human life.”

Half of the French population do not associate themselves with any religion, with 29% identifying as Catholics.

Abortion in France was decriminalized in 1975 and can be performed upon request up to 14 weeks after conception. Abortion in the later stages of pregnancy is allowed to prevent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or if it poses a risk to the pregnant woman’s life.

Late-stage abortions can also be performed if a child suffers from a disease recognized as incurable.

There were 234,300 abortions registered in France in 2022, reaching a decades-high level. However, many French women face barriers to abortion, as access to pregnancy termination depends on social status, geographic and other factors, LeMonde reports.

“Now Macron’s government should ensure the constitutional amendment is more than a political statement,” writes Hillary Margolis, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, a non-profit organization.

Yugoslavia, a European country that dissolved three decades ago, became the first country in the world to write the right to abortion in its constitution in 1974. The law was extended to Slovenia, one of the ex-Yugoslavia countries.

In 1996, South Africa adopted the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, a statute decriminalizing abortion.

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