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France to Make History with Constitutional Protection for Abortion Rights

French lawmakers are on the brink of passing a historic measure on Monday that would embed access to abortion in the country's Constitution, a move that would make France the first nation globally to do so. The proposed constitutional amendment, requiring three-fifths approval from both houses of Parliament, enjoys overwhelming support, with 90 percent of lawmakers having previously backed it in preliminary votes.


Inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022, the amendment seeks to safeguard abortion rights by declaring it a "guaranteed freedom" governed by parliamentary laws. This provision would prevent future governments from making significant alterations to existing abortion laws, according to French Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti.


"We are saying today, we don’t envisage a democratic society without the right to abortion," emphasized Senator Mélanie Vogel, a prominent advocate for the bill. "We are not France anymore without the right to abortion."


To mark the momentous occasion, Paris plans to broadcast live coverage of the parliamentary session in the iconic Trocadéro square, a symbolic gesture reflecting the significance of the proposed amendment for women's rights. Despite opposition from the Conference of Bishops and anti-abortion activists, the prevailing sentiment favors the constitutional change.


Constitutional experts, such as Anna Sledzinska-Simon, underscore the significance of the amendment's language, which explicitly acknowledges "access to abortion." This, they argue, represents a crucial departure from previous terminology and reflects a more assertive stance on reproductive rights.


France's journey toward liberalizing abortion laws began in 1975 with the decriminalization of abortion, gradually evolving into one of Europe's most progressive legislative frameworks. The proposed amendment further solidifies France's commitment to providing fully-funded abortions for women and minors up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.


Looking ahead, advocates like Sarah Durocher, national co-president of Le Planning Familial, anticipate broader policy changes to ensure effective access to abortion services. Despite some lingering concerns, including the closure of abortion centers and persistent gender inequality, the push for constitutional protection marks a significant milestone in France's ongoing efforts to uphold women's reproductive rights.


Senator Mélanie Vogel emphasized the pressure on lawmakers, noting that voting against the amendment would signal a desire to retain the option to restrict abortion in the future. This narrative, she believes, has resonated with society, fostering widespread support for the proposed constitutional change.


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