Europe

France is about to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution

France is about to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution

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View of the hemicycle of the French Senate in Paris during the debate on enshrining abortion in the constitution, on Feb. 28.

Mathilde Kaczkowski/Hans Lucas/AFP via Getty Images

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Mathilde Kaczkowski/Hans Lucas/AFP via Getty Images

View of the hemicycle of the French Senate in Paris during the debate on enshrining abortion in the constitution, on Feb. 28.

Mathilde Kaczkowski/Hans Lucas/AFP via Getty Images

PARIS — France will hold a historic joint session of parliament at the Palace of Versailles on Monday to enshrine the right to an abortion in its constitution, making it the first country in the world to do so.

The government of French President Emmanuel Macron started pushing for the move in 2022, when the country looked on with alarm as the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and states began to chip away at abortion rights.

“I made a commitment to make women’s freedom to have an abortion irreversible by inscribing it in the constitution,” Macron said on X (formerly Twitter) after lawmakers’ approved it Wednesday.

The extraordinary Versailles parliament session and approval of the measure by a three-fifths majority in both houses is required to officialize the change to the constitution. With both houses already approving the measure, Monday’s joint session at Versailles is expected to pass it.

The French Senate paved the way last week when more than 80% of legislators usually in the mostly male and socially conservative body gave their green light.

The measure had passed overwhelmingly in the lower house, the National Assembly, at the end of January.

None of the major political parties represented in parliament question the morality of abortion, though some conservative lawmakers said there was no need to amend the constitution.

“It serves no purpose, because no political movement is questioning abortion,” said far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who represents the National Rally party in parliament. Le Pen in the end voted to approve the measure.

A recent poll in France found 90% of respondents support the right to an abortion and 86% want to see it in the constitution.

France legalized abortion in 1974 in a law championed by health minister and women’s rights icon Simone Veil.

At the time, there were large protests against the measure and Veil was personally attacked, in a France that was still a largely conservative, Catholic country.

The latest French constitution dates from 1958 and the birth of the Fifth Republic with the presidency of Charles De Gaulle.

France’s time limit on elective abortion is set at 14 weeks — a shorter timeframe than the proposed 15-week nationwide ban that has caused an uproar in the United States.

Abortion care in France is reimbursed by the national health care system.

Out on the streets of Paris, there are differing views on the matter. “Abortion is in no way under threat in France and I think this is just a political stunt by Macron,” says Camille Galy, a 62-year-old dentist.

Fifty-year-old Corinne Bosser disagrees. “The right to an abortion could come under threat one day, we don’t know,” she says. “This is a way to guarantee that our daughters and granddaughters will have the same rights we have.”