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Lawmakers Back Bill to Enshrine Abortion Rights in Franceʼs Constitution

The bill, which developed in response to the U.S. Supreme Courtʼs overturning of Roe v. Wade, may face opposition in Franceʼs Senate and would have to be approved in a referendum.

French lawmakers on Thursday backed a proposal to enshrine abortion rights in the country’s
Constitution, in a move devised as a direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer.

But the bill, passed by the National Assembly, the lower and more powerful house of the French Parliament, will have to go through a complex legislative process, and face possible opposition in the Senate, before the Constitution could be amended, leaving ample time and opportunity for lawmakers or voters to ultimately reject it.

Still, Thursday’s vote was a symbolic milestone at a time when the right to abortion is increasingly challenged in France’s European neighbors. In Italy, the family minister in a new hard-right government has spoken out against abortion, in Spain, many doctors deny the procedures, and last year, Poland put in place a near-total ban on abortion.

“Nobody can predict the future,” Mathilde Panot, the head of the hard-left France Unbowed party, which backed the bill, told the National Assembly, adding that the proposal was meant “to ward off the fear that grips us when women’s right are under attack elsewhere.”

The effort to make abortion a constitutional right was prompted by the rollback of abortion rights in the United States in June, which sent shock waves through European countries and was seen as a red flag by many in France.

“History is full of examples of fundamental freedoms that were taken for granted and yet were wiped out with a stroke of the pen by events, crises or groundswells,” the justice minister, Éric Dupond-Moretti, said on Thursday. “And this is even more true when it comes to women’s rights.”

Abortion in France was decriminalized in 1975, two years after Roe v. Wade, under a landmark law championed by Simone Veil. Although no political party questions this legalization today, debates were raging on Thursday about whether to amend the Constitution.

Some lawmakers argued that such a move was unnecessary because abortion rights were not threatened in France, while others complained that the bill’s broad wording could allow for a further extension of the legal limits for ending a pregnancy, which currently stands at 14 weeks.

Fabien Di Filippo, a center-right lawmaker who abstained from voting, denounced those who “want to open the door to a right possibly unlimited in time.”

Hundreds of amendments were put forward to change the bill, including many on unrelated issues such as immigration and the environment, in what sometimes looked like a filibuster.
“I’m not sure that this type of debate this morning does us any credit,” an exasperated centrist lawmaker, Bertrand Pancher, told his colleagues, lamenting the absence of a substantial debate.

There were also moments in the discussion when lawmakers were visibly moved with emotion.
Aurore Bergé, the leader of President Emmanuel Macron’s party, Renaissance, in the National Assembly, told her colleagues about her mother’s dangerous and painful abortion, which took place when it was still criminalized.

Ms. Bergé called on lawmakers to vote for the bill “in the name of all women, in the name of all our mothers who fought, in the name of all our daughters who no longer have to fight, I hope.”
The initial draft included a proposal to also constitutionalize the right to contraception. But left-wing lawmakers reached an agreement with Renaissance, which has a relative majority in Parliament, to drop the proposal and instead focus only on abortion rights, in the hope of securing future Senate approval of the bill.

After the day of debate, the bill was overwhelmingly approved 337 to 32, with 18 abstentions. It was a rare example of bipartisanship in an otherwise factionalized Parliament.
More than 80 percent of the French favor the protection of abortion rights under the Constitution, according to a poll released this summer by IFOP, one of France’s most respected polling firms. A recent petition supporting the bill has been signed by over 160,000 people.

But there may be months to go before abortion rights are entered into the Constitution, if the bill makes it that far.

The bill now goes to the right-leaning Senate, which may vote it down, as it did last month when a group of senators presented a similar proposal. And even if the bill passes the Senate, it will then have to be approved in a nationwide referendum, in keeping with procedures for amending the Constitution — a cumbersome process that could have unpredictable political results.

This year, the French Parliament extended the legal limits to terminate a pregnancy from 12 to 14 weeks amid a heated political debate and despite Mr. Macron’s reticence on the issue. But France’s new time frame remains lower than in some European countries such as the Netherlands and Britain, where it is set at 24 weeks.

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Marina Mesure

Syndicalisme international

Marina Mesure is a specialist of social issues. She has worked for several years with organizations defending workers’ rights such as the European Federation of Building and Wood Workers.

She has campaigned against child labor with the International Labor Organization, against social dumping and the criminalization of unionism. As a famous figure in the international trade union world, she considers that the principle of “equal work, equal pay « remain revolutionary: between women and men, between posted and domestic workers, between foreigners and nationals ».

Marina Mesure, especialista en asuntos sociales, ha trabajado durante varios años con organizaciones de derechos de los trabajadores como la Federación Europea de Trabajadores de la Construcción y la Madera.

Llevo varias campañas contra el trabajo infantil con la Organización Internacional del Trabajo, contra el dumping social, y la criminalización del sindicalismo. Es una figura reconocida en el mundo sindical internacional. Considera que el principio de « igual trabajo, igual salario » sigue siendo revolucionario: entre mujeres y hombres, entre trabajadores desplazados y domésticos, entre extranjeros y nacionales « .

Spécialiste des questions sociales, Marina Mesure travaille depuis plusieurs années auprès d’organisations de défense des droits des travailleurs comme la Fédération Européenne des travailleurs du Bâtiment et du Bois.

Elle a mené des campagnes contre le travail des enfants avec l’Organisation internationale du travail, contre le dumping social, la criminalisation du syndicalisme. Figure reconnue dans le monde syndical international, elle considère que le principe de « travail égal, salaire égal » est toujours aussi révolutionnaire : entre les femmes et les hommes, entre les travailleurs détachés et domestiques, entre étrangers et nationaux ».

Sophia Chikirou

Directrice de la publication

Sophia Chikirou is the publisher of Le Monde en commun. Columnist, director of a documentary on the lawfare, she also founded several media such as Le Média TV and the web radio Les Jours Heureux.

Communications advisor and political activist, she has worked and campaigned in several countries. From Ecuador to Spain, via the United States, Mexico, Colombia, but also Mauritania, she has intervened with progressive and humanist movements during presidential or legislative campaigns.

In 2007, she published Ma France laïque (La Martinière Editions).

Sophia Chikirou es directora de la publicación de Le Monde en commun. Columnista, directora de un documental sobre el lawfare, también fundó varios medios de comunicación tal como Le Média TV y la radio web Les Jours Heureux.

Asesora de comunicacion y activista política, ha trabajado y realizado campañas en varios países. Desde Ecuador hasta España, pasando por Estados Unidos, México, Colombia, pero también Mauritania, intervino con movimientos progresistas y humanistas durante campañas presidenciales o legislativas.

En 2007, publicó Ma France laïque por Edicion La Martinière.

Sophia Chikirou est directrice de la publication du Monde en commun. Editorialiste, réalisatrice d’un documentaire sur le lawfare, elle a aussi fondé plusieurs médias comme Le Média TV et la web radio Les Jours Heureux.

Conseillère en communication et militante politique, elle a exercé et milité dans plusieurs pays. De l’Equateur à l’Espagne, en passant par les Etats-Unis, le Mexique, la Colombie, mais aussi la Mauritanie, elle est intervenue auprès de mouvements progressistes et humanistes lors de campagnes présidentielles ou législatives.

En 2007, elle publiait Ma France laïque aux éditions La Martinière.

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