Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

French lawmakers enshrine access to abortion in constitution

Protestors hold a banner that reads "Women decide, Abortion is a fundamental right" during a silent gathering at Place de la Sorbonne organized by the "Abortion in Europe" in Paris on Wednesday.   (Getty Images)
By Catherine Porter New York Times

PARIS – French legislators Monday voted to explicitly enshrine access to abortion in the constitution, making their country the first in the world to do so.

Acutely aware that they were breaking historical ground from the grand assembly room inside Versailles Palace, the politicians delivered impassioned speeches about women’s rights around the world, paid homage to the courageous Frenchwomen who had fought for abortion rights when it was illegal and leaped up to offer standing ovations.

“We are sending the 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 before the gathered lawmakers voted 780-72 for the amendment.

The amendment declares abortion to be a “guaranteed freedom,” overseen by Parliament’s laws. That means future governments will not be able to “drastically modify” the current laws funding abortion for women who seek it, up to 14 weeks into their pregnancies, according to the French justice minister, Éric Dupond-Moretti.

Amending the constitution is not unprecedented in France; the current constitution has been modified over 20 times since it was adopted in 1958. But it is rare. Lawmakers last amended the Constitution in 2008.

The impulse for the latest change was the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022, an issue raised repeatedly by legislators. But the move also reflects the widespread support for abortion in France, and a successful campaign by a coalition of feminist activists and lawmakers from multiple parties.

“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 has been a major force behind the bill. “The French Republic will no longer remain democratic without the right to abortion.”

With the vote, France became the first country in the world to explicitly write access to abortion into its constitution, according to five constitutional experts.

“It’s not stating reproductive choices or the right to have children; it’s a very different language when you say access to abortion,” said Anna Sledzinska-Simon, a professor of comparative constitutions and human rights law at the University of Wroclaw in Poland. “The French are calling it by its name – that’s crucial.” She added: “The whole world is watching.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.