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French MPs vote to enshrine abortion right in constitution

The constitutional right to abortion passed easily in the National Assembly but faces a tougher audience in the French Senate (JULIEN DE ROSA)
The constitutional right to abortion passed easily in the National Assembly but faces a tougher audience in the French Senate (JULIEN DE ROSA)

France's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved Tuesday a measure to inscribe abortion as a "guaranteed freedom" in the constitution, a pledge made by President Emmanuel Macron last year.

But the controversial plan now goes to the upper-house Senate, where it faces resistance from the conservative Republicans and the far-right National Rally.

The measure passed the National Assembly by a vote of 493 to 30, with almost all members of Macron's centrist minority coalition as well as  left-wing opposition parties approving.

"Tonight, the Assembly didn't miss its rendez-vous with the history of women and with history in general," Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said.

Macron and other French lawmakers called for the right to an abortion -- which has been legal in France since 1974 -- to be inscribed in the constitution after the US Supreme Court in 2022 ended an almost half-century national constitutional right to abortion.

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

The government chose the term "guaranteed freedom" to thread a needle between the lower house, which earlier voted to enshrine the "right" to an abortion, and the Senate, which is dominated by centre-right parties and which so far has approved only "freedom" for abortion.

Many centre-right members of the Senate oppose mentioning abortion in the constitution at all, saying that it is not a constitutional issue and that access to abortion is not threatened in France.

The Senate will start examining the text on February 28.

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