French lawmakers approve bill enshrining abortion rights in constitution

French lawmakers voted Thursday to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution, with lawmakers on the left and center saying the US Supreme Court’s reversal of a landmark ruling in June showed the need for new steps.

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The vote in the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, marks only the first step on the road to enshrining the right to abortion in the constitution.

To amend the Constitution, a bill must be voted on in the same terms by the House of Commons and the Senate.

The latter is controlled by the right and last month rejected a cross-party bill aimed at constitutionalizing the right to abortion and contraception.

>> On the rocky road towards incorporating the right to abortion into the French constitution

Women have had a legal right to abortion in France since a law was passed in 1974, and has been updated several times since then, with the latest change in February extending access to abortion to 14 weeks of pregnancy from 12.

Adding it to the constitution would further protect this right and make it more difficult to overthrow in France, said La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) lawmaker Mathilde Panot.

“It aims to prevent any regression,” Panot told parliament. “We don’t want to give any chance to people who are hostile to abortion and contraceptive rights.”

Abortion rights are more widely accepted in France than in the US or some other EU countries. Some 83% of French people are happy with the fact that abortion is legal, an Ifop poll showed in July, 16 percentage points more than some 30 years ago.

The same poll found that 81% went back and added the right to abortion to the constitution.

(Axadle with Reuters)

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