• April 20, 2024
 French Parliament enshrines abortion into constitution after historical landslide vote to protect ‘women’s freedom’

The Eiffel Tower lit up after the landslide victory after a historic bill was passed in The Palace of Versailles (Image: Eve Tawfick 1991- not for re-use)

French Parliament enshrines abortion into constitution after historical landslide vote to protect ‘women’s freedom’

Parisians saw the Eiffel Tower light up last night as a landslide Versailles vote enshrined abortion rights into the French constitution. 

A live-streamed joint session was held at the Palace of Versailles yesterday to protect a 1975 French law that decriminalised the termination of a pregnancy.

780 MPs and senators out of 925 of those eligible to vote supported the amendment to guarantee pregnant women the right to have an abortion. In a historic move – France has become the first country to craft an iron-clad covenant protecting the choice of pregnant women by incorporating the measure into the constitution.

The vote was met with fierce applause in the Versailles chamber and from scores of pro-choice supporters who gathered on the streets of Paris – blasting out US Pop Star’s Beyoncé’s ‘Run The World(Girls)’ as the result of the vote was announced. The Esplanade des Ouvriers, home of the Eiffel Tower, exuded a sense of jubilant triumph as the iconic landmark lit up with the words “#My Body, My Choice”.

The bill was passed after the French Senate voted on 28 February to guarantee access to terminate a pregnancy in its basic law.

Prime minister, Gabriel Attal, told those in the Congress Hall:

“We are haunted by the suffering and memory of so many women who were not free. We owe a moral debt to all the women who suffered in their flesh.

“Today, the present must respond to history. To enshrine this right in our constitution is to close the door on the tragedy of the past and its trail of suffering and pain. It will further prevent reactionaries from attacking women.

“Let’s not forget that the train of oppression can happen again. Let’s act to ensure that it doesn’t, that it never comes this day.”

He added:

“I say to all women within our borders and beyond, that today, the era of a world of hope begins.”

President Emmanuel Macron declared, after writing the new rights into Paragraph 17 of Article 34 in the French Constitution: 

“I promised to make the freedom of women to choose the right to have an abortion irreversible.”

Éric Dupond-Moretti, French Minister for Justice told parliament last week:

“Abortion rights were not simply a liberty like any other, because they allow women to decide their future.”

Currently, France allows abortion till 14 weeks of pregnancy. In November 2022, the National Assembly – which is referred to as the lower house of the French Parliament – endorsed a bill initiated by the La France Insoumise (LFI) party to enshrine abortion in the Constitution.

The overturning Roe v Wade in the US  Supreme Court in 2022 became an impelling force for change; sparking a wave of protective pro-choice and anti-harassment legislation in Europe. Germany banned women being harassed at abortion clinics and an EU Parliament motion was passed after an evaluation of sexual harassment alongside the global MeToo movement. The motion explored and saw recognition of gender based violence.

The motion was passed with 28 for, five abstained and none against. This saw changes that included a first for MEPs – the requirement to sign a declaration confirming their commitment to complying with the Code of Appropriate Behaviour, which has explicit paragraphs on harassment, calls for all EU institutions to introduce a network of confidential counsellors and external mediators to provide guidance to victims of sexual harassment.  There was also emphasis on encouraging cooperation between confidential counsellors in different EU bodies.

Abortion is accessible for women in over 40 European countries. Malta is the only EU country with a total ban on abortion. By 1990, the majority of the continent had legalised the medical procedure. In 2013 Ireland lifted the ban and in 2019 Northern Ireland followed suit.

Poland was one of the first EU countries to de-criminalise abortion in 1937.However, in a controversial move, Polish lawmakers held a Constitutional Tribunal that reversed women’s rights to have an abortion in 2020- ruling that women can undergo the procedure only in cases of rape, incest, or if their life is in danger.

Eve Tawfick, Editor

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