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Responding to US, France enshrines abortion access in constitution

Ariel Cohen, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

VERSAILLES, France — French lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to codify abortion access in their constitution Monday — a move directly inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“I was inspired by the fact that in the U.S. abortion rights were not in the Constitution,” French Senator Mélanie Vogel, the progressive politician who filed the amendment, told CQ Roll Call ahead of the dual-chamber vote.

“Reproductive and sexual rights are shrinking in the world. And here today we want to show that this is not the only path that you can follow…it can be reversed,” she said.

In France and across the European Union, women have long faced a first-trimester limit on elective abortions with very little of the outcry that similar proposals have sparked on the other side of the Atlantic.

But the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade changed all of that.

Before that, France followed America’s lead on reproductive rights for decades. One year after the U.S. Supreme Court granted unmarried couples access to birth control in 1972, France authorized free access to the pill for all. Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973, France decriminalized the procedure.

 

But after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, France moved to expand abortion access, and parliament voted to extend the legal time for at-will abortion under any circumstances from the 12th to the 14th week of pregnancy. Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron announced plans to enshrine abortion in the French Constitution.

“We’re watching closely what’s happening in the U.S.,” Mathilde Panot, the French assemblywoman who filed the amendment in the National Assembly, told CQ Roll Call ahead of the vote in the congress chamber of the Palace of Versailles.

“This shock made everyone realize that abortion rights can be jeopardized at any moment. Because it was simply legislation. Now it’s a value in our constitution, the recognition of abortion as a fundamental right.”

The amendment

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