Ideologues plot their next move after France enshrines abortion as a constitutional right

France has become the first country in the world to guarantee a right to abortion in its constitution. On Monday, a joint sitting of the upper and lower houses at Versailles overwhelmingly supported the amendment, by a vote of 780-72. Thunderous applause from the lawmakers erupted.

“We are sending a message to all women: Your body belongs to you and no one has the right to control it in your stead,” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said. “Today France is a pioneer. Today, you are telling the world that, yes, France is faithful to its heritage, to its identity as a nation like no other, a flagship country of humanity, the homeland of human rights and above all of women’s rights.”

On March 8, International Women’s Day, these words will be inserted as an addition to Article 34: "The law determines the conditions under which the guaranteed freedom is exercised for women to resort to a voluntary termination of pregnancy”.

However, the amendment, while immensely significant, does not immediately change how abortion is regulated.

Abortion has been legal in France since January 17, 1975 when the so-called Veil Act, named after Simone Veil, the health minister, was passed. It permitted abortion on demand up until the tenth week of pregnancy. Subsequently, conditions for surgical abortions have been relaxed further and medical abortions are freely available.

According to an Ipsos survey taken last year, 82 percent of the French believe that abortion should be legal. But after US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in 2022, abortion supporters lobbied even harder to protect it. They feared that if a right-wing government headed by Marine Le Pen wins the next election, conservatives might attempt to restrict it.

French politicians trumpeted that they were sending a message to the world about women’s rights. “We will continue for those who resist Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban, Milei, Putin, Giorgia Meloni, without forgetting the mullahs and theocratic dictators”, declared Socialist senator Laurence Rossignol.

“France is showing the right to abortion is no longer an option, it’s a condition of our democracy,” said Mélanie Vogel, a Green Party senator who worked hard to ensure passage of the amendment. “I want to send a message to feminists outside of France. Everyone told me a year ago it was impossible,” she told the New York Times. “Nothing is impossible when you mobilize society.”

What lies ahead?

The inclusion of the word “guaranteed” is ominous. As Philippe Bas complained in the Senate debate on the wording of the amendment,

[T]here are not two categories of rights and freedoms in the Constitution, those that are guaranteed and those that are not. The right to strike? Not guaranteed. The freedom to come and go? Not guaranteed. Freedoms of opinion, belief, expression? Not guaranteed. The right to live in a healthy environment? Not guaranteed. Equal access for women and men to elective functions? Not guaranteed.

Abortion ideologues are bound to weaponise this unique status which appears to make abortion more important than freedom of belief. No wonder Catholic bishops asked for prayer and fasting after the amendment was ratified. They have eyes in their head, unlike most journalists who reported on the amendment.

Politicians on the Left have already begun arguing that a “guaranteed” right to abortion is meaningless unless doctors provide it. They point to Italy, where abortions are legal, within limits, but many doctors refuse to perform them.

However, under the Veil Act, doctors and other health care personnel are protected by a conscience clause. No one is required to assist in terminating a pregnancy if he or she has ethical objections.

Two deputies in the National Assembly, Mathilde Panot and Mélanie Vogel, have demanded that this clause be removed. “There are worse ways to attack abortion,” said Panoton on X (formerly Twitter). “That’s what you can see with the extreme right in Italy where 75% of doctors who no longer do abortions.”

The Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti, has explained that a constitutional guarantee does not mean that the right to conscientious objection had been rescinded. “A doctor who does not want to (perform an abortion) will obviously have the right and freedom not to. We are not going to violate consciences. And this is already guaranteed by the Constitution.”



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With respect, I wonder if the honourable M. Dupond-Moretti is talking through his hat.

On November 26, 1974, Simone Veil defended her controversial abortion bill as a tragic necessity, not as a right. She declared: “I say unequivocally that abortion should remain an exception, the last resort for hopeless situations.” And she added that “even if [the law] no longer prohibits abortion, it should still not create any right to it".

Other deputies, of all political persuasions, agreed. Hélène Missoffe, a Gaullist, said: “Abortion is a failure, a trauma, an evil that everyone wants to see reduced.” Jacques-Antoine Gau, of the radical Left, admitted: “abortion is always, for the women who resort to it, a failure and often a personal tragedy.” And Jacqueline Chonaval, a Communist, said: “abortion, whether illegal or not, is an evil that should disappear one day”.

But those powerful objections faded with time, as Claire de La Hougue pointed out in an analysis of Veil’s speech on the website of the European Centre for Law & Justice:

Not only is the number of abortions still the same, if not increasing, but all the safeguards established by the Veil Law have been gradually abolished: no refund, prohibition of incitement to abortion, psychological and social counselling and information given to women to discourage them from aborting, parental consent for minors, threshold of 10 weeks of pregnancy, seven-day cooling-off period, and partly even the right to conscientious objection of doctors and paramedics.

So what do the French, those faithful, fearless defenders of liberté, égalité, fraternité, have now, 50 years after they legalised abortion in very exceptional circumstances? A constitutionally guaranteed right to kill unborn children. How long will it take to erase an unguaranteed right of conscientious objection? 

Is France an exception? Will other countries follow in protecting abortion by including it in their constitution? Leave your comment below!

Michael Cook is editor of Mercator

Image credits: Pexels


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  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2024-03-11 17:48:59 +1100
    A claim the murders / abortionists regularly make is that an embryo would not contain life, that the embryo would therefore not be a living person.

    They are of course wrong.

    The embryo is a growing person.

    When the mother conceives, she passes on life. The correct term, correct from a medical perspective, is that life is re-constituted in conception.

    Even the best scientists cannot create life from non living matter, never will.

    And by the way, this scientific conclusion has already been mentioned in Genesis, where it is stated that Eve is the mother of all human beings following Adam and Eve. She truly is.

    It is sad that so many scientists do no read the bible to look for advice.
  • mrscracker
    “We are sending a message to all women: Your body belongs to you and no one has the right to control it in your stead,”
    That differs when there are two bodies, two lives at stake. This type of rhetoric always ignores the child’s existence.
  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2024-03-07 17:41:50 +1100
    P.s: the Russian civil war was between the whites and the reds. In my analogy Zelensky and Ukraine would represent the reds.
  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2024-03-07 17:38:40 +1100
    “France is faithful to it’s heritage”. Its heritage is the revolution, which led to a civil war in France, including genocide in the Vendee, where catholic and monarchic rural restance was strong. The french civil war the became a European civil war between mostly catholic and orthodox christians on the one side and the revolutionaries on the other.

    Why do the revolutionaries now see the need to change the constitution, which would protect “murder” right? A murder right that in practical terms is currently practiced and incorporated in the law?

    Are they feeling threatened?

    The civil war in Europe has never ended, at least not in spiritual terms, in the fight for ideas and the soul of Europe.

    I have to say that I am concerned that the civil was might turn into a hot war, fought with guns, tanks and knives again?

    In a way the war in Ukraine looks like the reemergence of that civil war, in which the white, today Putin and Russia, fight against the whites, Zelensky and Ukraine.

    Seems that at least the left elites in Europe seem to interpret the war through this lens.
  • Michael Cook
    published this page in The Latest 2024-03-07 12:45:33 +1100