President Emmanuel Macron promised on Sunday to enshrine a woman’s right to an abortion in the French Constitution by next year.
The president said on X, formerly Twitter, that a bill making this possible would be presented to his Cabinet by the end of this year so that “in 2024, the freedom of women to have an abortion will be irreversible.”
Abortion in France was decriminalized under a 1975 law, but there is nothing in the constitution that would guarantee abortion rights.
It was the rollback of abortion rights in the United States after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 50-year-old ruling last year and stripped women’s constitutional protections for abortion that propelled France on a path toward unconditionally guaranteeing such rights.
Macron, honouring feminist Gisele Halimi in March, said he wanted to change the constitution in order “to enshrine the freedom of women to have an abortion, to solemnly ensure that nothing can stop or undo what will be irreversible.”
Amending the constitution is a laborious process, but the government came up with a shortcut to avoid a referendum on the question. By presenting its own bill, rather than one originating among lawmakers, Macron can convene a special “congress” of both houses that must adopt the amendment by a three-fifths majority, something that appears doable. Such congresses meet at the Palace of Versailles.
The text of the bill to reconcile all sides has been in the works for months. The president said that this coming week it would be sent to the Council of State, France’s highest administrative body, a necessary step. It would then be presented to the Cabinet by year’s end.
Macron’s office said that Article 34 of the constitution would be amended to include that “the law determines the conditions by which is exercised the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed.”
Anticipating the end of the process, the minister for equality for women and men, Berengere Couillard, said on X that “this is a victory for all women and a strong symbol sent to other countries of the world where our rights are losing ground.”