President Macron announces bill to include abortion in Constitution

10-03-2023

Western Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Demonstrators hold banners reading "abortion is a basic right" in front of the Eiffel Tower as they take part in a rally calling for right to abortion to be protected by Constitution in Paris. France's President Emmanuel Macron announced the presentation of a bill "in the coming months" to include the voluntary interruption of pregnancy (abortion) in the Constitution, paying tribute to the feminist Gisele Halimi, during the International Women's Rights Day. Photo AFP, Christophe Archambault

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised to draft a bill to enshrine abortion in the country's Constitution. He did so on Wednesday –International Women's Day– during a national tribute to the feminist lawyer Gisèle Halimi.

By including abortion in the Constitution, France prevents a "Bobigny trial" from happening again, said Macron, as reported by La Croix. The Bobigny Trial took place in 1972 when a minor was prosecuted for abortion after she became pregnant as a result of rape. Lawyer Gisèle Halimi achieved her release, and abortion was decriminalised three years after.

Wording

Now, President Macron aims to include in the Constitution that women have "the freedom to terminate a pregnancy." The National Assembly, which had considered this option already, had wanted to call it the "right to abortion", but the Senate changed the wording.

The freedom to terminate a pregnancy has a different legal meaning than the right to abortion, feminist activist Céline Thiebault-Martinez explained to the Dutch daily NRC. She points out that having the freedom to do something is all about the free choice of an individual. A right to something, on the other hand, ensures that an individual has the freedom to do something, but also gives other individuals the duty to enable the choice and respect the right."

Referendum

To get abortion in the Constitution by a parliamentary initiative, both chambers must approve the proposal, and a referendum has to speak out in favour as well.

However, to avoid the commotion a referendum on this controversial topic would cause, Macron chose a constitutional bill on the government's initiative. That means that a referendum is not necessary. If three-fifths of the Parliament vote in favour of the draft law, it is sufficient for implementation.

Complications

The right to abortion is one of the few issues that French feminists have all agreed upon over time. In the early 70s, some women propagated the decriminalisation of the act, La Croix writes.

In April 1973, the Movement for Abortion and Contraception Freedom (MLAC) was founded. It consisted of doctors, midwives and trained activists who performed abortions by suction. However, in 1975 it was abolished, as the Veil Law decriminalised the termination of pregnancy.

However, in 2023 Ghada Hatem, founder of Maison des femmes de Saint-Denis, where abortions are performed, still worries about women's access to abortion. "The closure of small maternities, the lack of doctors, all this too often complicates access to abortion", she says to La Croix.

Therefore, many feminists are still campaigning for abortion today. Now, the issue is to get it into the Constitution. According to La Croix, this is one of the few issues feminists from different ages and groups agree upon. They see abortion as a way to escape "patriarchal subjection."

Equality

On the occasion of International Women's Day, the French government also launched a new plan to promote gender equality in the country. It consists of hundred measures to achieve this. The plan is to reduce violence against women, promote women's health and stimulate professional and economic equality and a culture of equality, La Croix writes.

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