Citing US, French House Votes to Protect Abortion Access

Some lawmakers argue there's no threat to rights, but others say that's what Americans thought
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 24, 2022 2:25 PM CST
France Takes Up Putting Abortion Rights in Constitution
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne delivers a speech to the National Assembly in Paris in July.   (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

Lawmakers in France's lower house of parliament on Thursday adopted a bill to enshrine abortion rights in the country's constitution, the first step in a lengthy and uncertain legislative battle prompted by the rollback of abortion rights in the US. The measure was approved with 337 lawmakers voting for and 32 against in the 557-member National Assembly, the AP reports. To be added into the constitution, any measure must be first approved by majorities in the National Assembly and the upper house, the Senate, and then in a nationwide referendum. Authors of the proposal, from a left-wing coalition, argued the measure was aimed at "protecting and guaranteeing the fundamental right to voluntary termination of pregnancy."

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said the centrist government supports the initiative. He referred to the US Supreme Court’s decision in June, which eliminated the federal constitutional right to abortion and left the decision to the states. "The right to abortion we thought was acquired for 50 years (in the US) was in reality not at all acquired," he said. Abortion in France was decriminalized under a 1975 law, but there is nothing in the constitution that would guarantee abortion rights. Mathilde Panot, head of hard-left France Unbowed group at the National Assembly and co-signatory of the proposal, said "our intent is clear: we want not to leave any chance to people opposed to the right to abortion."

A recent poll showed that over 80% of the population supports the right to abortion and that a solid majority favors enshrining it in the constitution. President Emmanuel Macron's centrist alliance, Renaissance, on Thursday withdrew a similar proposal that was meant to be debated Monday in the National Assembly. Centrist and leftist lawmakers agreed to support a single bill, saying that "the law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy." Thursday’s vote is the first step of a lengthy process without a guaranteed result. The Senate, where the conservative party, the Republicans, has a majority, rejected a similar bill in September. Those senators argued the measure is not needed, saying the right to abortion is not under threat in France.

(Read more France stories.)

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