French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday that the right to have an abortion will be included in the French constitution. In a social media post, Macron stated that by 2024, the freedom of women to resort to abortion will be irreversible. He also revealed that he would submit a draft constitutional law to the Council of State by the end of the week.
According to Le Parisien, the measure will be presented to the Council of Ministers before the end of the year and taken up for consideration in the first weeks of 2024. Macron’s office stated that the text will be examined by the parliament in the spring.
While MP Mathilde Panot had proposed a similar constitutional law guaranteeing the “right to voluntary termination of pregnancy” in November 2022, Macron chose to use the term “freedom” instead of “right” following a debate. His office stated that the distinction does not imply consequences, as freedom is just as protective in law. Both rights and freedoms will have the same constitutional guarantee.
Constitutional revisions can be approved by either a referendum or a three-fifths majority in both houses of parliament. Macron’s office deliberately avoided submitting the measure for a referendum to avoid unnecessary debate, as it could lead to a debate for or against abortion.
Macron made the pledge to enshrine the freedom to obtain an abortion in France’s constitution in response to the US Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn the Roe v. Wade court decision. This decision had federally protected women’s right to abortion in the US.
Terminating a pregnancy is already legal in France up to 14 weeks. In cases where the health of the mother is at risk or the fetus has a terminal or incurable illness, two doctors must sign off for later terms. However, instituting constitutional protections for the procedure would make it difficult for any future government to restrict or ban it.
A survey conducted last year, cited by Le Parisien, found that 86% of respondents supported guaranteeing the right to an abortion in the constitution. This shows strong public support for the measure.
In 2022, 234,300 French women received abortions, the highest number since 1990 and 17,000 more than in 2021. While the deadline for abortion was extended to 14 weeks from 12 weeks in 2022, later abortions represented less than a fifth of the increase compared to the previous year.
Enshrining the right to abortion in the French constitution will provide women with clearer and stronger legal protections for their reproductive rights. It will also serve as a significant step towards ensuring reproductive autonomy and gender equality in the country.