French Senate votes to enshrine abortion rights in constitution

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France is one step closer to enshrining abortion rights in its constitution after French senators overwhelmingly endorsed the change on Wednesday.

A total of 267 senators voted in favor of the change, with 50 voting against it. The constitutional amendment faces a final test next Monday when it needs to secure the backing of three-fifths of lawmakers at a joint congress of parliament, which will see both houses vote together.

“I am committed to making women’s freedom to have an abortion irreversible by enshrining it in the constitution,” Emmanuel Macron said in a post on X, celebrating the Senate vote.

The bid for constitutionalization became a priority for the French government following the overturning by the United States Supreme Court of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, though the cause has been championed for several years by left-wing lawmakers and women’s rights activists.

Currently, abortion rights in France are protected by a 1975 law which has been amended on numerous occasions, most recently in 2022, to lengthen the time frame for legal abortions from 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. Like all laws, however, it could be revoked by a vote in the French parliament.

The move has overwhelming support from the French public, according to polling, but has faced criticism from right-wing lawmakers. Backers of the bill say constitutionalization would safeguard abortion rights even if an anti-abortion majority were to be voted into office.

France’s decision to constitutionalize abortion comes amid roll-backs on reproductive rights around the world, which have seen right-wing governments in Europe crack down on abortion access.

In Eastern Europe, both Hungary and Poland have introduced restrictions on abortion, measures that were frequently mentioned by France’s own lawmakers during a debate in the National Assembly in January.

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