French parliament to vote on abortion as constitutional right

French lawmaker Mathilde Panot says the vote to add the right to abortion to the French constitution was necessary to 'protect against regression.' – Mathilde Panot Facebook pic, November 24, 2022.

LAWMAKERS in the French parliament were set to vote today to add the right to abortion to the constitution in response to recent changes in the United States and Poland.

Members of parliament from the left-wing France Unbowed party and the ruling centrist coalition agreed today on the wording of the new clause, which will be put to a larger vote later in the day.

“The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntarily end a pregnancy,” reads the proposed constitutional addition to article 66.

The initiative was prompted by the US Supreme Court’s explosive decision this year to overturn the nationwide right to termination procedures for Americans.

In Europe, the conservative government of Poland has also heavily restricted abortion rights.

France Unbowed lawmaker Mathilde Panot said the move was necessary in France to “protect ourselves against a regression”.

In a speech to parliament, she cited the late French writer and women’s rights activist Simone de Beauvoir.

“We only need a political, economic or religious crisis for the rights of women to come into question,” she said.

The agreement was a rare instance of cooperation between the hard-left France Unbowed and the centrist allies of President Emmanuel Macron in the hung and often rowdy National Assembly. 

A previous attempt to inscribe the right to abortion as well as contraception into the constitution, with different wording, was rejected by the conservative-dominated Senate in October. 

The new attempt, if approved by the lower house, would also need a green light in the Senate and must then be voted on in a national referendum.

Many conservative and Catholic politicians have announced their misgivings, seeing it as unnecessary given the legal protections already in place.

“It appears totally misplaced to open a debate which, although it exists in the United States, does not exist in France,” far-right leader Marine Le Pen said in a statement this week.

“No political group is thinking about questioning access to abortions,” she said. 

Abortion was legalised in France in 1974 in a law championed by health minister Simone Veil, a women’s rights icon granted the rare honour of burial at the Pantheon by Macron upon her death in 2018. – AFP, November 24, 2022.

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