Europe

France proposes bill to enshrine abortion rights in constitution

French lawmakers have proposed a bill to enshrine abortion rights in the country’s constitution, according to a statement by two members of parliament on Saturday.

The move comes after a landmark ruling in the United States (US), which overturned almost five decades of constitutional protections for abortion, allowing states to ban the procedure.

In the US, the 1973 ‘Roe vs. Wade’ ruling guaranteed a nationwide right to abortion, although it was long a source of contention for the conservatives and the religious right. Many US states have already moved to ban abortion. 

The leader of Macron’s party in parliament on Saturday said she had tabled a law to “enshrine the respect for abortion in our constitution.” 

“Women’s rights are always fragile rights that are regularly threatened,” Aurore Berge told the France Inter radio station, describing the US supreme court’s decision to revoke abortion rights as “catastrophic for women around the world.”

“We must take steps in France today so we do not have any reversal of existing laws tomorrow,” she added. 

French citizens already have the right to abortion inscribed in a 1975 law surrounding the voluntary termination of pregnancy. 

A constitutional law will cement abortion rights for future generations, said Marie-Pierre Rixain, a member of parliament and of Macron’s The Republic on the Move party.

“What happened elsewhere must not happen in France,” she continued. 

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the government would support the bill “wholeheartedly”, echoing the support expressed by other ministers.

“For all women, for human rights, we must set this gain in stone. Parliament must be able to unite overwhelmingly over this text,” she wrote on Twitter.

The left-wing NUPES alliance, which also supports the move, and Macron’s Ensemble coalition would together command a large majority in favour of such a constitutional change.

The National Rally has long been opposed to abortion, but current leader Marine Le Pen has since presented herself as a defender of women’s rights and backed the status quo.

Macron expressed solidarity with women in the United States following the decision to overturn a landmark ruling in a move that is likely to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states.

Macron said women’s liberties were being undermined by the decision. “Abortion is a fundamental right for all women. It must be protected,” the French president wrote in a tweet late on Friday.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

In 2018 and 2019, opposition lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to amend the constitution to include the right to abortion.

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