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France inscribes right to abortion in its constitution on Women's Day

The ceremony in Paris was a key event on a day focused on advancing women's rights globally.
France inscribes right to abortion in its constitution on Women's Day
Posted at 5:35 AM, Mar 08, 2024

France inscribed the guaranteed right to abortion in its constitution Friday, a powerful message of support for women's rights on International Women's Day.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti used a 19th-century printing press to seal the amendment in France's constitution at a special public ceremony. Applause filled the cobblestoned Place Vendome as France became the first country to explicitly guarantee abortion rights in its national charter.

The measure was overwhelmingly approved by French lawmakers earlier this week, and Friday's ceremony means it can now enter into force.

While abortion is a deeply divisive issue in the United States, it's legal in nearly all of Europe and overwhelmingly supported in France, where it's seen more as a question of public health rather than politics. French legislators approved the constitutional amendment on Monday in a 780-72 vote that was backed by many far-right lawmakers.

Friday's ceremony in Paris was a key event on a day focused on advancing women's rights globally. Marches, protests and conferences are being held from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Mexico City and beyond.

The French constitutional amendment has been hailed by women's rights advocates around the world, including places where women struggle to access birth control or maternal health care. French President Emmanuel Macron called it a direct result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2022 rescinding long-held abortion rights.

Macron's critics questioned why he pursued the measure in a country with no obvious threat to abortion rights but where women face a multitude of other problems.

While some French women saw the step as a major win, others said that in reality not every French woman has access to abortion.

"It's a smokescreen," Arya Meroni, 32, said of the event.

"The government is destroying our health care system, many family planning clinics have closed," she said at an annual "Feminist Night March" in Paris on the eve of International Women's Day.

France has a persistently high rate of women killed by their partners and challenges remain in prosecuting sexual abuse against women by powerful celebrities and other men. French women also see lower pay and pensions — especially women who are not White.

Macron's government said the abortion amendment was important to avoid a U.S.-like scenario for women in France, as hard-right groups are gaining ground and seeking to turn back the clock on freedoms around Europe.

SEE MORE: Unborn: The fight over reproductive rights in America

Macron will preside over the constitutional ceremony. Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti will use a 220-pound press from 1810 to imprint the amendment in France's 1958 constitution.

It will include the phrase, "the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed." The ceremony will be held outdoors with the public invited, in another first.

France follows in the footsteps of the former Yugoslavia, whose 1974 constitution included the phrase: "A person is free to decide on having children." Yugoslavia's successor states retained similar language in their constitutions, though they did not spell out guaranteed abortion rights.

Not everyone saw the day as a cause for celebration, as angry protest marches were held in numerous countries.

The head of the Danish Trade Union Confederation, which has 1.3 million members, chafed at how differently women and men are treated in some areas.

"Unfortunately, we still see sky-high pay differences, professions dominated by one sex, a gender-segregated labor market, harassment cases that primarily affect women and a wide range of other equality problems," Morten Skov Christensen said.

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