France Makes History as First Country to Enshrine Abortion Rights in Constitution

March 4, 2024 - Reading time: 2 minutes

On Monday, France made history by becoming the first country to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution.

This move came as a direct response to the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and protect reproductive rights worldwide. The French Parliament voted 780 to 72 in favor of the measure, easily surpassing the three-fifths majority needed for constitutional amendment.

The amendment states that there is a "guaranteed freedom" to abortion in France. Some groups and lawmakers had called for stronger language explicitly calling abortion a "right." However, this historic decision sends a clear message of support for reproductive rights not only in France but also across the world where these rights are under threat.

Following the vote, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated with the words "my body my choice," symbolizing women's autonomy over their own bodies and choices. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal emphasized that this decision is a way to fulfill France’s moral debt to women who were forced to endure illegal abortions in the past.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced that there would be a formal ceremony celebrating the amendment's passage on International Women's Rights Day, held annually on March 8th. This historic decision comes after France first legalized abortion in 1975 under then-Health Minister Simone Veil, an Auschwitz survivor and feminist icon.

In contrast to the highly divisive issue of abortion rights in the United States, where it often falls along party lines, in France, it is widely supported. Many lawmakers who voted against the amendment did so not because they opposed abortion but rather felt that the measure was unnecessary given the widespread support for reproductive rights.

The passage of this amendment marks a significant victory for the French left and their ongoing efforts to guarantee abortion rights in France's constitution. Prior to 2022, President Emmanuel Macron’s government argued against such action; however, following the US Supreme Court ruling against Roe v. Wade, France was prompted to act swiftly.

The French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti highlighted that history has shown fundamental rights can be taken away even in large democracies like the United States. This amendment is a testament to the fact that no democracy is immune from such threats. The Catholic Church, one of the few groups opposing this decision, stated that "in the era of universal human rights, there can be no 'right' to take human life."

This historic vote marks the 25th time France has amended its constitution since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.