France Advances Towards Enshrining Abortion Rights in Its Constitution, Potentially Pioneering Global Precedent
Women’s Rights Researcher,
Global Human Rights Defence.
On Tuesday, January 30, the French National Assembly overwhelmingly passed a bill aimed at incorporating a woman's right to abortion into the French Constitution. The bill will now proceed to the Senate and must subsequently secure a three-fifths majority in both houses of Parliament (Le Monde, 2024). If endorsed, a joint parliamentary body will convene for the final adoption of the bill (Colliva and Szanieck, 2024).
It was President Emmanuel Macron, who pledged to introduce a measure in response to the erosion of abortion rights in the United States, aiming to amend Article 34 of France's constitution to explicitly ensure women's freedom to access abortion, which is currently not constitutionally guaranteed despite the decriminalisation of abortion in 1975. While none of France's prominent parliamentary parties contest the right to abortion, certain members within the conservative majority in the Senate have expressed reservations regarding the proposal's language, introducing an element of uncertainty to its passage.
If the bill is enacted, France will achieve a historic milestone by becoming the first country globally to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution, as noted by a constitutional expert and Guillaume Gouffier Valent, the lawmaker overseeing the legislation, signalling a pivotal moment for reproductive rights both domestically and internationally. If the bill is enacted, France will achieve a historic milestone by becoming the first country globally to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution, as noted by a constitutional expert and Guillaume Gouffier Valent, the lawmaker overseeing the legislation, signalling a pivotal moment for reproductive rights both domestically and internationally. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal lauded the vote as "a significant victory for women's rights," while Gender Equality Minister Aurore Bergé tweeted the following: “We must continue our efforts—for our mothers who paved the way, and for our daughters, ensuring they never have to struggle as we did" (Le Monde, 2024).
However, there is a long road to adoption. The Senate is scheduled to vote on it in February, followed by the French Congress, a joint assembly of both parliamentary chambers. The bill's approval depends on obtaining a three-fifths majority vote in the French Congress, a milestone expected to align with International Women's Day on March 8, 2024 (Colliva and Szanieck, 2024). Furthermore, the president of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, had not shown enthusiasm regarding the existence of this text: "Abortion is not threatened in our country. If it were threatened, believe me, I would fight to maintain it. But I believe that the Constitution is not a catalogue of social and societal rights," judged the Senate leader on France Info, on January 23rd (Graindorge, 2024).
Sources and further readings:
Colliva, C. and Szaniecki, M. (2024, January 30). France on-track to constitutionalize abortion rights. CNN. Retrieved 31 January 2024 from https://edition.cnn.com/2024/01/30/europe/france-abortion-rights-vote-intl/index.html
Graindorge, T. (2024, January 31). L’Assemblée nationale vote l’inscription de l’IVG dans la Constitution. Le Point. Retrieved 31 January 2024 from https://www.lepoint.fr/politique/l-assemblee-nationale-vote-l-inscription-de-l-ivg-dans-la-constitution-30-01-2024-2551167_20.php#11
Le Monde (2024, January 30). France's Assemblée Nationale approves bill to protect abortion in the Constitution. Le Monde with AP. Retrieved 31 January 2024 from https://www.lemonde.fr/en/france/article/2024/01/30/france-s-assemblee-nationale-approves-bill-securing-right-to-abortion_6479552_7.html