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“Historic”: Abortion rights gain constitutional status in France

A vote with great symbolic power: in France, the freedom to have an abortion will be enshrined in the constitution. The necessary three-fifths majority was achieved at a meeting of both chambers of parliament in Versailles on Monday. Only 72 MPs voted against, with 780 votes in favor. Afterwards, those present applauded standing up. Both chambers had already given the project the green light individually beforehand.

The official ceremony for the constitutional amendment is to take place on International Women's Day on Friday. French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X, formerly Twitter: "France's pride. Universal message."

Many also celebrated the vote as an important symbol because the options for abortion are being significantly restricted worldwide in some cases. In the USA, the US Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to abortion almost two years ago. In Poland, a stricter abortion law came into force in 2021 following a controversial ruling by the Constitutional Court. Since then, women have not been allowed to have an abortion even if an unborn child has severe deformities. However, the new Prime Minister Donald Tusk wants to relax the abortion law again.

Abortions permitted up to 14 weeks

In France, abortions up to the tenth week of pregnancy have been exempt from punishment since 1975. Pregnant women in France can now have abortions up to the 14th week and the costs are covered by health insurance. According to surveys, more than 80 percent of French women and men were in favor of the constitutional amendment.

In Germany, abortion remains unpunishable in the first twelve weeks if the woman receives counseling beforehand. However, the SPD, Greens and FDP in the German government are considering deleting Section 218 from the Criminal Code.

According to the BFMTV channel, the words "my body, my choice" were projected onto the Eiffel Tower on Monday evening. Below, people cheered when the result was announced. They had followed the vote on a large screen.

Vote celebrated as historic

Before the vote, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal spoke of a "moral debt" to all women who had suffered. "We are haunted by the suffering and the memory of so many women who have suffered for decades from not being able to be free", he emphasized and was pleased about the "successful conclusion of a long struggle". Many MPs celebrated the vote as "historic". The parliamentary group leader of the left-wing party La France insoumise (LFI), Mathilde Panot, saw this as a promise for all women fighting for the right to abortion worldwide. France was recalling its vocation as a "beacon of human rights", said Panot, who had introduced the first draft for the constitutional amendment.

During the vote in France, several hundred anti-abortion activists gathered near the Congress in Versailles to protest against the constitutional amendment. The Catholic Church also made it clear that it continues to oppose abortion. According to the BFMTV channel, the Pontifical Academy for Life stated: "In the age of universal human rights, there can be no "right" to destroy a human life."

©Keystone/SDA

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