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Ideologues plot their next move after France enshrines abortion as a constitutional right

by | Mar 12, 2024

By Michael Cook

France has become the first country in the world to guarantee a right to abortion in its constitution. A week ago Monday, a joint sitting of the upper and lower houses at Versailles overwhelmingly supported the amendment, by a vote of 780-72. Thunderous applause from the lawmakers erupted.

“We are sending a message to all women: Your body belongs to you and no one has the right to control it in your stead,” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said. “Today France is a pioneer. Today, you are telling the world that, yes, France is faithful to its heritage, to its identity as a nation like no other, a flagship country of humanity, the homeland of human rights and above all of women’s rights.”

On March 8, International Women’s Day, these words were be inserted as an addition to Article 34: “The law determines the conditions under which the guaranteed freedom is exercised for women to resort to a voluntary termination of pregnancy”.

However, the amendment, while immensely significant, does not immediately change how abortion is regulated.

Abortion has been legal in France since January 17, 1975, when the so-called Veil Act, named after Simone Veil, the health minister, was passed. It permitted abortion on demand up until the tenth week of pregnancy. Subsequently, conditions for surgical abortions have been relaxed further and medical abortions are freely available.

According to an Ipsos survey taken last year, 82 percent of the French believe that abortion should be legal. But after U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in 2022, abortion supporters lobbied even harder to protect it. They feared that if a right-wing government headed by Marine Le Pen wins the next election, conservatives might attempt to restrict it.

French politicians trumpeted that they were sending a message to the world about women’s rights. “We will continue for those who resist Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban, Milei, Putin, Giorgia Meloni, without forgetting the mullahs and theocratic dictators”, declared Socialist senator Laurence Rossignol.

“France is showing the right to abortion is no longer an option, it’s a condition of our democracy,” said Mélanie Vogel, a Green Party senator who worked hard to ensure passage of the amendment. “I want to send a message to feminists outside of France. Everyone told me a year ago it was impossible,” she told the New York Times. “Nothing is impossible when you mobilize society.”

What lies ahead?

The inclusion of the word “guaranteed” is ominous. As Philippe Bas []complained in the Senate debate on the wording of the amendment,

[T]here are not two categories of rights and freedoms in the Constitution, those that are guaranteed and those that are not. The right to strike? Not guaranteed. The freedom to come and go? Not guaranteed. Freedoms of opinion, belief, expression? Not guaranteed. The right to live in a healthy environment? Not guaranteed. Equal access for women and men to elective functions? Not guaranteed.

Abortion ideologues are bound to weaponise this unique status which appears to make abortion more important than freedom of belief. No wonder Catholic bishops asked for prayer and fasting after the amendment was ratified. They have eyes in their head, unlike most journalists who reported on the amendment.

Politicians on the Left have already begun arguing that a “guaranteed” right to abortion is meaningless unless doctors provide it. They point to Italy, where abortions are legal, within limits but many doctors refuse to perform them.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Mercator and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Abortion