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France: Macron promises to make abortion rights irreversible

October 29, 2023

A woman's right to abortion will be enshrined in the French constitution by next year, President Emmanuel Macron vowed. To change the constitution, Macron can convene a special "congress" of both chambers of parliament.

Women hold a banner reading "Abortion is a fundamental right" during a rally to support women's right to abortion on the occasion of the International Safe Abortion Day in Paris
President Emmanuel Macron vowed to enshrine a woman's right to an abortion in the French constitutionImage: Thomas Samson/AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that he plans to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution by next year to make them "irreversible."

In a post on X, previously known as Twitter, Macron said a draft project would be submitted to the State Council, France's highest administrative court, next week.

It would then be presented to the Cabinet by the end of the year. "In 2024, the right of women to choose abortion will become irreversible," Macron said.

The announcement follows a pledge Macron made on March 8, International Women's Day, that was seen as a response to the overturning of federal abortion rights in the United States. Last year, the US Supreme Court overturned a 50-year-old ruling and stripped women of constitutional protections for abortion.

How to change the French constitution?

According to Macron's office, Article 34 of the constitution would be amended to include that "the law determines the conditions by which is exercised the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed."

Constitutional revision in France requires either a referendum or approval by at least three-fifths of the members of both chambers of parliament united in a "congress."

By presenting his own bill, rather than one that originated among lawmakers, Macron can convene such a "congress."

Most constitutional changes in post-war France have been approved by congressional vote. Such congresses meet at the Palace of Versailles.

Abortion in Europe scorned, concealed, prohibited

Are abortions legal in France?

The termination of a pregnancy was decriminalized in France by a law passed in 1975, but there is nothing in the country's constitution that guarantees abortion rights.

Since then, successive laws have aimed to improve the conditions for abortion, in particular by protecting women's health and anonymity, and by reducing the financial burden of the procedure on women.

According to government figures, 234,000 abortions were performed in France last year.

A November 2022 opinion poll found that 89 percent of respondents were in favour of making abortion rights constitutional.

dh/jcg (AFP, AP)