A “right” or a “freedom”? France moves closer to enshrine abortion in constitution

A final text is expected for March. An evangelical bioethics group laments the lack of effective efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Evangelical Focus

PARIS · 25 JANUARY 2024 · 12:15 CET

Participants in a recent march for life in Paris, France. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="https://enmarchepourlavie.fr/#">Marche Pour La Vie</a>.,
Participants in a recent march for life in Paris, France. / Photo: Marche Pour La Vie.

The debate around making abortion and untouchable right in France may have entered a final stage.

Ending a pregnancy is legal for women in the country since 1974 (and made easier in February 2022) but the fears of some that a government in the future may change the law has opened a two-year push to enshrine abortion in the constitution.

France peaked at a record high 232,000 abortions in 2019.


Many views, a long process

The parliamentary debate around amending the constitution started in November 2022, leading to a give and take battle between the Assembly and the Senate.

On 24 January, a majority supported by progressive parties and president Emmanuel Macron (who wants to see an outcome “as soon as possible”) passed a motion that speaks of the “guaranteed freedom of a woman to turn to an abortion”.

The initial proposals speaking of a “right” were left behind to reach and agreement. A final confirmation of the constitutional change in both national chambers is now expected for March.

But the slow pace of the ammendments show the range of views on this issue in France. One year ago, thousands demonstrated for life, saying “the right to kill cannot become a supra-legislative rule, a constitutional right”.


Evangelical bioethics group: “Genuinely prevent unwanted pregnancies”

Among those opposing the move is the Evangelical Protestant Committee for Human Dignity (CPDH, in French).

“Why are we so determined to enshrine abortion in the Constitution rather than genuinely prevent unwanted pregnancies?”, the group said in a statement last week. “If our leaders and representatives put the same energy into defending the dignity of every human being, there would be a lot less suffering in our country”.

Speaking to Evangelical Focus when the debate started in 2022, CPDH’s president, Franck Meyer said the abortion had become a “dogma” for many French politicians. “The majority of the new parliamentarians want to toughen up the legislation on abortion partly because they fear that what happened in the United States (the freedom of choice given to the states) could happen in France”, he analysed.

The voice of faith minorities such as evangelical Christians is “rarely heard on this issue”, Meyer said. “The idea that abortion would become a fundamental freedom defended by the French Constitution (in the same way as freedom of expression or of worship), would be a serious decision that could reduce to nothing the value of prenatal human life and probably of life in general”.

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