France Adds Abortion Rights to Constitution

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.05 - 2024 12:01 PM CET

Photo: Lev Radin / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Lev Radin / Shutterstock.com
France becomes the first country to explicitly include abortion rights in its constitution.

Trending Now

France has taken a groundbreaking step by being the first country to clearly include abortion rights in its constitution, responding to the trend of restricting reproductive rights seen in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Political Strategy and Reactions

On Monday evening, French lawmakers met in Paris, called together by President Emmanuel Macron for a crucial vote at the Palace of Versailles. To pass, the bill safeguarding abortion rights needed more than three-fifths of the votes.

"We're sending a message to all women. Your body belongs to you and no one can decide for you," stated Prime Minister Gabriel Attal during the session with MPs and senators.

This amendment, now part of France's 1958 constitution under Article 34, ensures women's access to abortion. The government proposed the specific language for the amendment, stating, “The law determines the conditions by which is exercised the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed.”

The National Assembly, France’s lower parliamentary chamber, initially supported the bill with a majority vote in January. The Senate later approved it too, after adjusting the phrasing to "guaranteed freedom" due to some opposition from conservative members.

The amendment received wide support from various political parties, marking it as the 25th change to the constitution of the Fifth Republic.

President Macron, reflecting on the importance of this bill, shared on X that he is “committed to making women's freedom to have an abortion irreversible” with this bill.

Historical Context

This legislative change comes as a reaction to the erosion of reproductive rights in several countries, notably the U.S., where the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, eliminating the federal safeguard for abortion rights established in 1973.

The introduction of the French bill acknowledges the global threats to women's autonomy over their bodies, highlighting efforts to restrict abortion access even within Europe.

Abortion has been legal in France since 1975, with the law allowing procedures up to 14 weeks after conception, a provision extended in 2022.

After the Senate's endorsement, Prime Minister Attal stated, “When women’s rights are attacked in the world, France stands up and places itself at the avant-garde of progress.”

However, some see President Macron's push for this amendment as a strategy to win over the left-wing members of his Renaissance party, amid controversies over pension reform and immigration policies.

There's debate over the necessity of the amendment, as some argue that abortion rights were already protected under the 2001 constitutional council ruling, which aligned with freedoms declared in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man.

According to Anne Levade, a law professor, while the amendment is symbolically significant, it might not change the practical status of abortion rights.

Most Read