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French lawmakers vote to enshrine abortion in constitution

"Women decide," reads a banner during a rally in support of women's right to abortion on International Safe Abortion Day in Paris in 2023

"Women decide," reads a banner during a rally in support of women's right to abortion on International Safe Abortion Day in Paris in 2023

France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would enshrine a woman's right to an abortion in the French Constitution.

The measure was promised by President Emmanuel Macron last year following a rollback of abortion rights in the United States.

The bill passed the National Assembly by a vote of 493 to 30, with nearly all members of Macron's minority centrist coalition, as well as left-wing opposition parties, in favor.

"Tonight, the National Assembly and the government did not miss their rendez-vous with women's history," Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said.

How to change the French constitution?

A constitutional amendment in France must pass both chambers of parliament and then be approved either in a referendum or by a three-fifths majority of a joint session of parliament.

Macron's government is seeking the second method, although support for the measure in the Senate is less certain than in the National Assembly. The Senate will begin considering the text on February 28.

None of France's major political parties represented in parliament question the right to abortion. However, many center-right members of the Senate oppose any mention of abortion in the Constitution, saying that it is not a constitutional issue and that access to abortion is not threatened in France.

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 in 2022.

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

dh/jsi (AFP, AP)