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France on Monday became the first country to include abortion in its Constitution

Photo: Dimitard Dilkoff Agence France-Presse A woman raises her fist and others carry the flag of the women's rights group “Women's Foundation”. Many people gather at Place du Trocadéro in Paris for this day “which will go down in history” according to the country’s Prime Minister.

Antoine Maignan – Agence France-Presse in Paris

1:53 p.m.

  • Europe

France on Monday became the first country to explicitly include the voluntary termination of pregnancy in its Constitution, to the great dismay of the Vatican, and contrary to many countries where the right to abortion is declining.

“We owe a moral debt” to all women who have “suffered in their flesh” from illegal abortions, declared Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, opening the debates.

Deputies and senators solemnly gathered in Congress at the Palace of Versailles approved by a very large majority (780 for, 72 against) the modification of the Constitution proposed by the government of President Emmanuel Macron.

He praised “French pride” and a “universal message”. “Let us celebrate together the entry of a new freedom guaranteed in the Constitution,” wrote Mr. Macron in a message published on X.

Four days before March 8, International Women's Rights Day, this reform introduces the sentence into Article 34: “The law determines the conditions in which the freedom guaranteed to women is exercised 'have recourse to a voluntary termination of pregnancy'.

This is “the first constitutional provision so explicit and broad on the subject, not just in Europe, but in the world,” underlined Leah Hoctor, of the Center for Reproductive Rights, an American organization defending the right to abortion.

The Vatican reiterated its opposition to any “right to suppress human life” on Monday at the time of this historic vote.

“In the era of universal human rights, there can be no “right” to take human life,” said the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Vatican body responsible for bioethical questions, in support of the opposition of the bishops of France.

The meeting of the French Congress completes a long political battle launched by the left, carried by feminist associations and finally embraced by the government after several parliamentary initiatives.

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“Message of hope”

Supported by more than 80% of the French population according to various surveys, the constitutionalization of abortion has gradually imposed itself on the political landscape.

Even the Eiffel Tower lit up Monday evening to celebrate this vote. And the right and the far right, historically opposed or skeptical of the formulation adopted by the government, ended up voting mainly for the reform, despite certain reluctance.

Voluntary abortion (abortion) was legalized in France in 1975, four years after a shock appeal in which 343 women, including actresses Jeanne Moreau and Catherine Deneuve and writers Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras and Françoise Sagan, had revealed that they had had an abortion.

A tireless campaigner for this constitutionalization, Family Planning welcomed in advance the “message of hope” that the Congress will send “to feminists around the world”. “Because in France and throughout the world, the right to abortion is still seriously threatened,” underlined the association for the defense of women’s rights, particularly in matters of sexuality and contraception.

“Cultural battle”

This was demonstrated spectacularly with the annulment in June 2022 in the United States of the Roe v. Wade, who protected access to abortion at the federal level. Since then, many states have severely restricted or even banned abortion on their soil and thousands of American women are forced to undertake painful and expensive trips to have an abortion.

This decision across the Atlantic had the effect of an electric shock on French opinion and elected officials, leading to the first initiatives the same year, initially under the impetus of the radical left .

In March 2023, Emmanuel Macron announced his desire to include in the Constitution the “freedom” to resort to abortion.

In recent days, few hostile voices have been heard. The Conference of Bishops of France relayed on Monday the call “to fasting and prayer” launched by several Catholic associations. “Of all European countries, […] France is the only one where the number of abortions is not decreasing and has even increased over the last two years,” she said.

Opponents of abortion mobilized by the hundreds in Versailles on Monday afternoon. Teenage girls pasted photos of ultrasounds in front of which demonstrators placed white roses, “symbols of resistance”.

The supporters of the reform met at the Trocadéro, in Paris, where a retransmission of the vote on a giant screen was organized at the initiative of the town hall and the Women's Foundation . “It warms the heart to see France become the first country to protect this very important right,” said Brigitte Tirot, 72 years old.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116