How did Macron get to his proposal for abortion in the French Constitution?

30-10-2023

Western Europe

CNE.news

Placards reading "My body my choice" (L) and "Abortion in the Constitution" are seen during a rally to call for the constitutionalisation of the right to abortion outside the Senate in Paris. Photo AFP, Ludovic Marin

President Emmanuel Macron does not hesitate to make haste with his plans to include abortion in the French Constitution. Next week, he will submit a bill to the Council of State, he announced. How did he get so far? A reconstruction.

Macron's goal is to guarantee the freedom of women to have an abortion by enshrining this in article 34 of the French Constitution, Valeurs Actuelles states. He plans to submit a draft to the Council of State next week and present it to the Council of Ministers by the end of the year. The President promised that in 2024, "the freedom of women to resort to abortion will be irreversible."

By presenting a bill, Macron attempts to avoid a referendum on the issue, La Croix analyses. If the two chambers of the government agree to a bill, it is ready to become law. It would make France the first country to include abortion in its Constitution.

European Parliament

Macron's ideas to secure abortion as a human right do not come out of the blue.

In January 2022, he announced his stance on the issue loud and clear in the European Parliament, CNE.news reported earlier. Macron said at the time that abortion should be included in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. He received a large applause for his idea.

However, the road to inclusion of abortion in the Constitution is not without obstacles.

In October 2022, the French Senate rejected a proposal to that end. The bill led to heated discussions in the Senate. In total, 172 opposed the motion, while 139 voted in favour. The proposal wanted to add two sentences to the Constitution: "No one may infringe the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy and contraception. The law guarantees to any person who so requests free and effective access to these rights."

The French Senate has the power to veto any Constitutional change, just like the National Assembly. However, at that time, there were two other bills ready for consideration at the National Assembly for the same purpose.

Green light

In November 2022, a legal commission of the French Parliament accepted a proposal to include abortion in the Constitution. A majority of the members of the commission agreed to the text that no one can "infringe the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy and contraception." The green light of the legal commission on the bill was necessary for the French Lower House to look at the proposal, which came after the decision of the US Supreme Court to remove abortion as a federal right for the USA.

The Parliament did so a few days after the legal commission approved the bill. A large majority voted in favour, CNE reported.

In January 2023, the French Senate voted in favour of the proposal as well, Constitutionnet stated. In total, 166 members voted in favour and 152 against. Nevertheless, the approval of the Senate only came after the bill was rewritten by Republican Senator Philippe Bas. Instead of calling abortion a right, the amendment calls it a freedom. The amendment was sent back to the National Assembly, as both chambers must agree on a draft for it to pass to the next phase of lawmaking.

In March 2023, French President Macron spoke out in favour of including abortion as a freedom in the Constitution instead of as a right. On International Women's Day (March 8), he promised to draft a constitutional bill on the issue so that a referendum is not necessary. If three-fifths of the French Parliament approves a constitutional bill, it can be implemented.

In October 2023, Macron emphasised that he wants to enshrine women's freedom to terminate a pregnancy in the Constitution as soon as possible." It seems that he is set upon realising this statement. Some claim that up to 90 per cent of the French population is in favour of including abortion in the Constitution.

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