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March 5, 2024, 7:12 am
Culture, World

France makes abortion constitutional right

Fiji TV Team
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France has become the first country in the world to put the right to abortion in its constitution.

Parliamentarians voted to revise the country’s 1958 constitution to enshrine women’s “guaranteed freedom” to abort.

It becomes the 25th amendment to modern France’s founding document, and the first since 2008.

Polls show around 85% of the public supported the reform.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told parliament that the right to abortion remained “in danger” and “at the mercy of decision makers” before the vote.

“I am telling women, within our borders and beyond: The era of a world of hope is starting,” he said at a rare parliamentary congress in Versailles.

While resistance from right-wingers in parliament failed to materialise, President Emmanuel Macron has been accused of using the constitution for electoral ends.

Critics say the revision is not necessarily wrong in itself, but unnecessary, and accused the president trying to use the cause to boost his left-wing credentials.

In France, the right to abortion has been enshrined in law since 1975.

Since then the law has been updated nine times – and on each occasion with the aim of extending access.

France’s constitutional council – the body that decides on the constitutionality of laws – has never raised a query.

In a 2001 ruling, the council based its approval of abortion on the notion of liberty enshrined in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, which is technically part of the constitution.

So many jurists say abortion was already a constitutional right.

The constitutional change was prompted by recent developments in the US, where the right to abortion was removed by the Supreme Court in 2022. Individual states are now able to ban the procedure again, ending the right to an abortion for millions of women.

The move to enshrine abortion in the French constitution has been welcomed by many.

“At the moment of the vote, the Eiffel tower should sparkle and it will send a message to the world too. It’s an important message for the world,” said Anne-Cécile Mailfert, an activist for the Fondation des Femmes, a women’s rights organisation.

“These emotions that fill us up today and really energise us, we would like to transmit them to other women and feminists in the world that fight for similar rights.”

But not all have welcomed the vote, with the Vatican repeating its opposition to abortion.

“There can be no ‘right’ to take a human life,” the Vatican institution said in a statement, echoing concerns already raised by French Catholic bishops.

It appealed to “all governments and all religious traditions to do their best so that, in this phase of history, the protection of life becomes an absolute priority”.

(Source: BBC)