French Senate gives the go-ahead to enshrine abortion in the Constitution
The new text of the draft law changes the term “right” for “freedom to terminate the pregnancy”. To be finally adopted, the law must be voted in a referendum.
Public Sénat · PARIS · 03 FEBRUARY 2023 · 14:40 CET
Although the Senate Law Commission had rejected the text of the daft law last week, and last October most senators voted against the draft law, this time the new wording of the text convinced a enough majority.
“Freedom” instead of “right”
Philippe Bas, senator of Les Républicain (LR, the Republicans), presented the new text, which changes the term “right” for freedom, so that, the amended version approved by the Senate adds the following to the Constitution: “The law determines the conditions under which a woman's freedom to terminate her pregnancy is exercised”.
The former wording said: “The law guarantees the effectiveness of and equal access to the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy”.
“My counter-proposal aims to guarantee the balance of current abortion law […] There is a freedom that can be enshrined in the Constitution but on condition that there is a conciliation between the right of the pregnant woman to terminate her pregnancy and the protection of the unborn child after a certain period of time”, explained Bas.
Division of opinions
The Socialists, Ecologists and Communists unanimously adopted the amendment because “it has the virtue of starting on the road to Constitutionalisation", said socialist senator Marie-Pierre de la Gontrie, but she also said that “abortion is not only a freedom, it is a right”.
The ecologist senator, Mélanie Vogel, spoke of “a historic moment” on the morning show of Public Sénat TV. “The debate on the registration of the right to abortion is behind us. There is a discussion on how to write it and where in the constitution, but we have won a battle that is immense”, she added.
On the contrary, the amendment of Bas was not supported by his own party. LR senator Agnès Canayer pointed out that “the current law guarantees abortion in France and there is no need to Constitutionalise it. Assuming, as its author says, that this amendment does not change anything, what is the point of it?”.
The session was briefly suspended after a group of young activists disrupted the speech of Senator Stéphane Ravier with shouts of "Protect abortion", before being evacuated by ushers.
A long way to go
Despite the passing of the draft law in the Senate, it still has a long way to go before abortion could be enshrined in the Constitution.
Since the text approved with a large majority by the lower house of the French parliament in November 2022, and the one now passed by the Senate are different, the parliamentary process must continue until the text is voted on in identical terms by the two assemblies.
To be finally adopted, the constitutional Bill must then be approved by referendum, according to article 89 of the Constitution.