Abortion is now a constitutional right in France

Abortion is now a constitutional right in France
DKT WomanCare Global welcomes the French parliament’s decision to enshrine abortion as a constitutional right. This monumental decision was made at a historic joint session at the Palace of Versailles on 4 March this year. The impetus for the change was the US Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a ruling that had previously recognised a woman’s right to an abortion and had legalised it nationwide in the USA.Out of 925 French MPs and senators eligible to vote, 780 supported the amendment of the constitution, which gives women the “guaranteed freedom” to choose an abortion. The announcement of the result was welcomed by a standing ovation in Parliament and the Eiffel Tower was illuminated with messages of support such as “My Body My Choice”.

The measure had already been passed by the upper and lower houses, the Sénat and the Assemblée Nationale, but final approval by parliamentarians at the joint session at Versailles was needed to effect change to the 1958 constitution.

Enshrining abortion as a constitutional right aligns with DKT WomanCare Global’s mission to promote women’s health and autonomy. From our Head Office in Paris, France, we are committed to empowering women across the globe by offering essential services, including safe abortion and contraceptive products while recognising and addressing the diverse and complex health needs of women.

Commenting on the vote, French prime minister Gabriel Attal said: “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. 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.”

Mathilde Panot, a French MP, told those gathered for the joint session that it was “a promise … for all women fighting [for them] everywhere in the world. Your fight is ours. This victory is yours.”

French president Emmanuel Macron had earlier promised to make women’s freedom to choose an abortion “irreversible”. Writing the right to abortion into the constitution, which involved amending the 17th paragraph of article 34, was seen as a way of protecting the law that decriminalised abortion in France in 1975.

At DKT WomanCare Global, we strive to create a world where women are empowered to live their lives to the fullest. French justice minister Éric Dupond-Moretti echoed these sentiments during the national assembly debate on the law when he told MPs that abortion rights were not simply a liberty like any other, “because they allow women to decide their future”.

Once the two houses had agreed on the wording of the legal text, Macron had the choice to hold a national referendum or call a joint parliamentary “congress” made up of 577 MPs and 348 senators at Versailles, where it required at least 60% of votes cast to pass (in the actual vote, over 80% were in favour of the amendment).

The joint session was the first such session aimed at changing the constitution since 2008, when Nicolas Sarkozy took steps to modernise French institutions, including limiting presidents to a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms in office.

The leaders of 18 political groups – 10 from the lower house, eight from the upper – were each allowed to speak for five minutes on the change before the vote. Following the vote, the text was authenticated by a “seal of congress” and sent to the government. President Macron finalised the constitutional amendment on 8 March 2024, International Women’s Day.

Abortion has been legal in France since 1975, but French polls showed that around 85% of the public supported amending the constitution to protect the right to end a pregnancy. The decision follows an earlier vote by the French parliament in 2022 when they voted to extend the country’s legal limit for ending a pregnancy from 12 to 14 weeks. This came in response to the frustration of thousands of French women who were forced to travel abroad each year to terminate pregnancies in countries such as the Netherlands, Spain and the UK.

DKT WomanCare Global celebrates this huge step forwards with the women of France – and the important precedent that it sets for women across the globe.

Sources: www.theguardian.com; www.bbc.com; 

Photograph: AFP