France makes abortion a constitutional right during historic Versailles elections

The French parliament has recorded it abortion as a constitutional right a historic joint session in the Palace of Versailles.

Of the 925 voting MPs and senators, 780 supported the amendment, which will give women the “guaranteed freedom” to choose abortion.

There was thunderous applause in the room when the results were announced on Monday; in central Paris, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated to mark the occasion.

The measure had had already been adopted by the House of Lords and House of Commons, the Sénat and the Assemblée Nationale, but final approval by parliamentarians at the joint session in Versailles was needed to bring about constitutional changes.

The Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, told those gathered in the opulent conference hall in the Midi Wing of the palace: “We are haunted by the suffering and memory of so many women who were not free. We owe a moral debt (to all women who) suffered in their flesh.

“Today the present must respond to history. If we enshrine this right in our Constitution, we close the door on the tragedy of the past and the trail of suffering and pain. It will further prevent reactionaries from attacking women.

“Let us not forget that the train of oppression can happen again. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen, that it never happens again today.”

He added: “I say to all women within our borders and beyond that today begins the era of a world of hope.”

Mathilde Panot, a lawmaker from the far-left France Unbowed, who proposed including abortion rights in the constitution, told the meeting it was “a promise… for all the women who fight (for them) around the world.”

She added: “Your struggle is our struggle. This victory is for you.”

Mathilde Panot told the conference that abortion rights were “a promise… for all women who fight (for them) around the world.” Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images

The president, Emmanuel Macron, said he had pledged to make women’s freedom to choose abortion “irreversible.” Writing the right to abortion into the constitution, which involved amending the 17th paragraph of the constitution article 34 that defines the law and its limits seen as a way to protect the law that decriminalized abortion in France in 1975.

During the National Assembly During the debate on the law in January, Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti told MPs that the right to abortion was not simply a freedom like any other, “because it allows women to decide their future”.

Aurore Bergé, the minister in charge of equality and the fight against discrimination, added: “This vote will be one of the most important and remarkable of this parliament.”

Once the two houses agreed on the wording of the legal text, Macron had the choice of holding a national referendum or convening a joint parliamentary ‘congress’ consisting of 577 parliamentarians and 348 senators in Versailles, where three-fifths of the votes cast was needed. passage.

Monday’s session is the first to be held to change the constitution since 2008, when Nicolas Sarkozy took steps to modernize French institutions, including limiting presidents to a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms.

Since 1958, the Parliamentary Congress has met sixteen times and introduced 21 constitutional amendments.

The congress was overseen by Yaël Braun-Pivet, from Macron’s Renaissance party, who is the equivalent of speaker of the lower house, and parliamentarians were are arranged alphabetically.

The leaders of eighteen groups – ten from the lower house and eight from the upper house – were invited to speak about the change for five minutes each before the vote.

Members of Parliament listen to the French Prime Minister at the Palace of Versailles Photo: Christophe Petit-Tesson/EPA

The text will now are authenticated by a “seal of Congress” and sent to the government. Macron will attend a ceremony to finalize the constitutional change on Friday, International Women’s Day.

Political momentum for the constitutional amendment was given following the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade, a ruling that had recognized women’s constitutional right to abortion and legalized it nationwide.

Right-wing senators from the Républicains party voted against a first attempt to amend the constitution in October 2022. Later that year, the French parliament voted to extend France’s legal limit for terminating a pregnancy from 12 to 14 weeks, amid anger that thousands of women were forced to travel abroad annually to terminate pregnancies in, among other places The Netherlands, Spain and Great Britain.

Anti-abortion demonstrators gathered in Versailles, near the palace, to oppose the constitutional change.