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French Senate Votes To Approve Constitutional Abortion Rights

08:02 AM Feb 29, 2024 IST | NEWS Desk
french senate votes to approve constitutional abortion rights
French Senate Votes To Approve Constitutional Abortion Rights

Paris [France]: The French Senate, on Wednesday, decisively voted in favour of a legislative proposal that aims to enshrine the right to abortion in the French Constitution, following the US Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v Wade, Euronews reported.

The Senate's decision saw 267 votes in favour and 50 against, marking a crucial step in the legislative process. The proposed legislation now awaits approval by a three-fifths majority from both houses during a joint congress scheduled for March 4.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal expressed the magnitude of the vote, highlighting it as "huge progress" and emphasising the "protection that we owe to all women." He underscored the significance of recognising women's right to freely control their bodies, casting the move as a step forward for gender equality, as reported by Euronews.

The inspiration for this constitutional amendment stems from the 2022 overturning of Roe v Wade in the United States, a landmark 1973 decision that secured abortion rights. The decision prompted concerns about the erosion of established rights and freedoms, as evidenced by subsequent restrictive legislation in several US states.

The French president's constitutional law proposal, introduced in response to these global developments, aims to fortify abortion rights within the French legal framework. The explanatory introduction to the proposal stresses the vulnerability of cherished rights and freedoms, citing similar movements in various countries, including Europe, attempting to curtail access to abortion. Notably, a 2020 court ruling in Poland resulted in a near-total ban on abortion in that country.

Abortion has been legal in France since 1975, with legislation decriminalising the practice during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Over the years, the time limit has been extended to 14 weeks, with the procedure's cost covered by the national health insurance system, according to Euronews.

The journey towards constitutional recognition began when the National Assembly endorsed the change in November 2022. However, the Senate introduced alterations to the wording. President Emmanuel Macron officially proposed the legislative amendment on March 8, 2023, during a tribute to feminist activist Gisele Halimi. The National Assembly approved the government's proposal in January, culminating in the recent Senate endorsement.

The pivotal article in the proposed constitutional amendment emphasises that "the law determines the conditions under which the right is guaranteed to a woman to resort to voluntarily terminating a pregnancy."

The Fondation des Femmes, a gender equality NGO, celebrated the Senate's decision as a "historic vote" and a "collective victory of feminist organisations."

Sarah Durocher, president of the non-profit organisation Family Planning, noted the opportunity to include voluntary pregnancy termination in the French Constitution, calling it a "strong message" of solidarity with feminists worldwide fighting for this right, Euronews reported.

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