France becomes first country in 50 years to make abortion a constitutional right


France has become the first country in the world to make abortion a constitutional right – with the country’s government saying the move is in response to a tightening of laws in the US.

A bill that was adopted by France’s Senate after a vote on 28 February has been approved in an overwhelming 780-72 vote after a joint session of parliament on Monday.

“We’re sending a message to all women: your body belongs to you and no one can decide for you,” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told MPs and senators gathered for a special vote under the gilded ceilings of the Versailles Palace, just outside Paris.

There were jubilant scenes of celebration all over France as women’s rights activists hailed the measure promised by President Emmanuel Macron following a rollback of abortion rights in the United States, where the Supreme Court overturned a 50-year-old ruling that used to guarantee it in 2022.

The introduction to the French legislation said: “Unfortunately, this event (in the US) is not isolated: in many countries, even in Europe, there are currents of opinion that seek to hinder at any cost the freedom of women to terminate their pregnancy if they wish.”

Mr Macron said last week that his government is committed to “making women’s right to have an abortion irreversible by enshrining it in the constitution”.

None of France’s major political parties represented in parliament has questioned the right to abortion, which was decriminalised in the country in 1975.

Mr Macron has reportedly been hoping the constitutional revision will set him apart from France’s far-right National Rally party ahead of the European election in June.

The National Rally is ahead in the polls as the election gets closer, and 46 of its 88 MPs, including three-time presidential candidate Marine Le Pen voted in favour of the constitutional revision.

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