French Senate Lobbied Ahead of Vote on Measure to Enshrine Abortion Right in Constitution

Fayçal Benhassain | December 6, 2022 | 5:26pm EST
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‘Abortion is fundamental right’ reads this banner at a demonstration in Paris in September. (Photo by Christophe Archambault / AFP via Getty Images)
‘Abortion is fundamental right’ reads this banner at a demonstration in Paris in September. (Photo by Christophe Archambault / AFP via Getty Images)

Paris ( – Pro-abortion groups in France are lobbying the Senate to back an initiative to enshrine the “right” to abortion in the Constitution, after the lower National Assembly voted in favor of the move last month.

Prompted by concerns arising in France after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the measure passed in the National Assembly by 337 votes to 32.

But support for enshrining abortion rights in the Constitution is lower in the Senate, which in October rejected a similar proposal in its first reading, by 172 votes to 139.

The family planning association in the city of Brest, a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, sent an open letter to all senators, urging their support, now that House passage has occurred.

“We hope that the males in the Senate will be able to hear the voices of all French women benefiting from their representation, and on their behalf allow the inclusion of this fundamental law in the Constitution,” it said.

A Senate vote could take place early next year. If both houses vote in favor, a referendum would be the last step required for the constitutional change.

The measure, authored by Aurore Bergé, leader of President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble (“Together”) group in the assembly, and backed by the leftist Rebellious France movement, would add language to the effect that “the law guarantees the effective and equal access to the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy.”

Called IVG in France (“voluntary interruption of pregnancy”), abortion has been legal here until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy since the passage in 1975 of a law known as the Veil Act (for then Health Minister Simone Veil). In 1988 France became the first country to introduce the abortion pill, RU-486.

Earlier this year the time limit for an abortion was extended from 12 to 14 weeks’ gestation.

While promoters of the proposed constitutional change pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in arguing for its need, right-wing parties say it is not necessary, since abortion rights are not under threat in France.

“This agitation does not seem justified to me,” Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally said last month. “We are not the United States and no party plans to change our legislation.”

Despite that comment, Le Pen voted in favor of the measure.

Other House members of the National Rally and the center-right Republican Party, have been divided over the move, with some voting against or abstaining.

Two lawmakers vying to lead the Republican party, Eric Ciotti and Aurélien Pradié, both supported the measure.

“I am in favor of us enshrining the principles of the Veil law in the Constitution,” Ciotti told the TF1 television channel last week.

In a survey over the summer by the polling firm IFOP, 81 percent of respondents voiced support for the constitutional change.

Commenting on the draft law, Franck Meyer, president of the Protestant Committee of Human Dignity, told the Christian publication Evangelical Focus that a country’s constitution “is not meant to assert a particular interest but to serve the general interest.”

“For us, the idea that abortion would become a fundamental freedom defended by the French Constitution (in the same way as freedom of expression or of worship), would be a serious decision that could reduce to nothing the value of prenatal human life and probably of life in general.”

“Putting the right to abortion into the Constitution is not only useless, but would have consequences on deadlines, the conscience clause, and also the representation that society has of the reality of a simply conceived child,” Clotilde Brunetti-Pons, a jurist specializing in family law, told La Croix, a Christian daily paper.

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