France to enshrine abortion in its constitution in response to rollback of rights in U.S.


France’s Senate adopted a bill on Wednesday to enshrine the right to an abortion in the Constitution, clearing a key hurdle for legislation promised by President Emmanuel Macron in response to a rollback of abortion rights in the United States. 

Wednesday’s vote came after the lower house, the National Assembly, overwhelmingly approved the proposal in January. The measure now goes before a joint session of Parliament for its expected approval by a three-fifths majority next week. 

Macron said after the vote that his government is committed to “making women’s right to have an abortion irreversible by enshrining it in the constitution.” He said on X, formerly Twitter, that he would convene a joint session of Parliament for a final vote on Monday. 

Macron’s government wants Article 34 of the 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.” 

The senate adopted the bill on a vote of 267 in favour, and 50 against.

“This vote is historic,” French Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti said. “The Senate has written a new page in women’s rights.” 

None of France’s major political parties represented in Parliament has questioned the right to abortion, which was decriminalized in 1975.

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Abortion not a constitutional right in Canada

In Canada, abortion has been legal since 1988, when the Supreme Court decided in R. v. Morgentaler that a law that criminalized it was unconstitutional.

While there are no laws barring abortion, it’s also not considered a constitutionally protected right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Instead, it’s regulated as a medical procedure.

An abortion law in Canada would open the door to new restrictions, notes Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights on its website.

“If the government tries to create a bill to guarantee the right to abortion, it will open the door to anti-choice politicians trying to put limits on abortion for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with science or medical need,” it says.

When a leaked copy of the decision overturning Roe v. Wade in the U.S. was released in 2022, reporters in Canada asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau whether he would consider putting legislation on the table to enshrine such a right. He left the possibility open, but added he wants to prevent a situation where rights could be rolled back, as was the case in the U.S.

Last year, on International Safe Abortion Day, Trudeau reiterated that abortions are “safe and legal.”

“We will never put a woman’s right to choose up for debate,” he said in a statement at the time.

‘Currents of opinion’

In France, with both houses of Parliament adopting the bill, Monday’s joint session at the Palace of Versailles is expected to be largely a formality. 

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 a 50-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.

In Poland, a controversial tightening of the already restrictive abortion law led to protests in the country last year. The Polish constitutional court ruled in 2020 that women could no longer terminate pregnancies in cases of severe fetal deformities, including Down syndrome.

France will become the first country in Europe to enshrine abortion in its legislation, Sen. Melanie Vogel wrote on X Wednesday.

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