France proposes bill to enshrine abortion rights in constitution

French lawmakers have introduced a bill to include abortion rights in the country’s constitution, according to a statement from two MPs on Saturday.

The move follows a landmark ruling in the United States (U.S.) that overturned nearly five decades of constitutional protections for abortion, allowing states to ban the procedure.

In the US, the ‘Roe vs. Wade’ ruling of 1973 a nationwide right to abortion, though it has long been a source of contention for conservatives and the religious right. Many US states have already taken steps to ban abortion.

The leader of Macron’s party in parliament said on Saturday she had introduced a law to “enshrine respect for abortion in our constitution”.

“Women’s rights have always been fragile rights that are regularly threatened,” Aurore Berge told France Inter radio station, describing the US Supreme Court’s decision to repeal abortion rights as “catastrophic for women around the world.”

“We need to take steps in France today so we don’t have a reversal of existing laws tomorrow,” she added.

French citizens already have the right to abortion enshrined in a 1975 law on voluntary termination of pregnancy.

A constitutional law will strengthen abortion rights for future generations, said Marie-Pierre Rixain, a member of parliament and of Macron’s The Republic on the Move party.

“What happened elsewhere should not happen in France,” she continued.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the government would support the bill “wholeheartedly”, echoing the support of other ministers.

“For all women, for human rights, we must set these gains in stone. Parliament must be overwhelmingly united on this text,” she wrote on Twitter.

The left-wing NUPES alliance, which also supports the move, and Macron’s Ensemble coalition would jointly lead a large majority for such a constitutional amendment.

The National Rally has long opposed abortion, but current leader Marine Le Pen has since presented herself as a champion of women’s rights and supportive of the status quo.

Macron expressed solidarity with women in the United States after the decision to overturn a landmark ruling, a move likely to lead to abortion bans in about half of the states.

Macron said women’s freedoms would be undermined by the decision. “Abortion is a fundamental right for all women. It must be protected,” the French president wrote in a tweet late Friday.

The legal term for terminating a pregnancy in France has been extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

In 2018 and 2019, opposition lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to amend the constitution to include the right to abortion.