France debates enshrining abortion rights in constitution

PARIS — Lawmakers in France’s decrease home of parliament started debating a proposal Thursday to enshrine abortion rights in the nation’s constitution, step one in a prolonged and unsure legislative battle prompted by the rollback of abortion rights in the United States.

Authors of the proposal, from a left-wing coalition, argued it was aimed toward “protecting and guaranteeing the fundamental right to voluntary termination of pregnancy and to contraception by inscribing it into our Constitution.”

Abortion in France was decriminalized beneath a key 1975 legislation, however there’s nothing in the constitution that might assure abortion rights.

Mathilde Panot, head of hard-left France Unbowed group on the National Assembly and co-signatory of the proposal, mentioned “our intent is clear: we want not to leave any chance to people opposed to the right to abortion and to contraception.”

French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said the centrist government supports the initiative.

He referred to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June, which eliminated the federal constitutional right to abortion and left the decision to the states.

“The right to abortion we thought was acquired for 50 years (in the U.S.) was in reality not at all acquired,” he said.

Another bill to inscribe the right to abortion into the constitution, initiated by a group of lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance, Renaissance, will also be debated Monday in the lower house, the National Assembly. That text does not include a mention to the right to contraception.

Both proposals are only the first step of a lengthy and uncertain process.

To be approved, any measure must be first approved by majorities in the National Assembly and the upper house, the Senate, and then in a nationwide referendum.

The Senate, where the conservative party, The Republicans, has a majority, rejected a similar proposal in September. The Republicans senators argued the measure is not needed since the right to abortion is not under threat in France.

Dupond-Moretti said he was “hopeful” that some senators may change their thoughts and type a majority in favor.

He and different proponents of constitutional change argue that French lawmakers shouldn’t take any possibilities on elementary rights, since it’s simpler to alter the legislation than the constitution.

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