France Makes ‘Abortion’ a Constitutional Right, a Global First


France’s parliament voted on March 4th to include the right to abortion into the Constitution of France. The bill was introduced in December 2023 and has been adopted by legislators with certain modifications. This marks a historic milestone, as it is the first instance in history where the right to abortion has been codified into a nation’s constitution.

The legislation constitutionalizes the voluntary termination of pregnancy under Article 34, stipulating that parliament determines the conditions under which this freedom is exercised. Consequently, it anchors the assurance of abortion rights within the constitution itself.

A majority of three-fifths in both chambers of parliament, totaling 512 votes, was required for the law to be ratified. The law was passed with a vote of 780-72. The National Assembly, France’s primary legislative body, sanctioned the bill in January with a vote of 493-30.

The explanatory memorandum accompanying the original proposal underscored that the June 2022 US Supreme Court decision invalidating Roe v. Wade illustrated that even the most firmly established rights and freedoms can be imperiled. Therefore, while the right to abortion is undisputed in France, this constitutional amendment safeguards it against future challenges.

This is consistent with international law, as the right to abortion has been acknowledged by various international bodies, including the UN, which asserts that access to abortion services is “a part of State obligations to eradicate discrimination against women and ensure women’s right to health.”

Women’s rights organizations have praised the decision. La Fondation des Femmes expressed on X (formerly Twitter) that the vote represents a “historic and unprecedented victory in more than one way,” while the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) European Network declared that “the overwhelming majority vote today in Congress is a win for feminist movements and a resounding message to the rest of the world: abortion is a fundamental freedom.”

However, anti-abortion groups have criticized this move, with the National Association of Catholic Families (CNAFC) asserting that “there can be no right to take human life.” While the decision to enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution aligns with general public sentiment, Marine Le Pen, a far-right party leader, censured the President, arguing that this does not constitute a real victory, as the French populace already supports the right.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte