France: First Country To Make Abortion a Constitutional Right

France has officially become the first country in the world to explicitly incorporate the right to abortion into its constitution.

The legislative body voted to amend the 1958 constitution, thereby securing women’s absolute right to terminate a pregnancy.

The overwhelming vote of 780 to 72 led to a standing ovation in the Versailles parliament upon announcing the vote’s outcome.

President Emmanuel Macron hailed this move as a mark of “French pride,” which had sent a “universal message.”

Criticism has come from anti-abortion groups and the Vatican, both voicing strong opposition to this constitutional amendment.

Since its legalization in 1975, abortion in France has enjoyed broad public support, with about 85% in favor of embedding this right within the constitution to safeguard the option of pregnancy termination.

While numerous countries recognize reproductive rights in their constitutions, France stands out as the first to explicitly guarantee the right to abortion.

This amendment marks the 25th change to France’s foundational document since its modern inception and the first modification since 2008.

The Eiffel Tower was illuminated in celebration after the vote, with the message: “My Body My Choice”.

Before the vote, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal expressed that abortion rights were under threat and dependent on the whims of policymakers.

“We’re sending a message to all women: your body belongs to you, and no one can decide for you,” he added.

Despite expectations, opposition from conservative parliamentarians was minimal, yet Macron faces accusations of manipulating constitutional reform for political gain.

Some critics argue that while the amendment is not inherently flawed, it is deemed unnecessary, suggesting Macron’s attempt to appeal to progressive voters.

The law has seen nine revisions since 1975, each aimed at broadening access, without any constitutional objections raised by France’s constitutional council.

In 2001, the council affirmed abortion rights based on the principle of liberty from the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, indirectly incorporating it into the constitution, leading many legal experts to consider it already a constitutional right.

The amendment was motivated by recent shifts in the U.S., where the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision allowed states to prohibit abortion, revoking millions of women’s rights to the procedure.

The inclusion of abortion rights in the French constitution has been met with widespread approval.

“This right (to abortion) has retreated in the United States. And so, nothing authorized us to think that France was exempt from this risk,” said Laura Slimani, from the Fondation des Femmes rights group.

“There’s a lot of emotion, as a feminist activist, also as a woman,” she said.

However, the Vatican has reiterated its stance against abortion, asserting that no right should exist to end a human life.

The Vatican 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.”