French lawmakers back abortion rights bill

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French lawmakers back abortion rights bill

Members of the French National Assembly celebrated the vote to ensure abortion rights in the Constitution of Paris on Thursday.

The bill, developed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, could face opposition in France's Senate and would have to be approved in a referendum.

PARIS - French lawmakers on Thursday backed a proposal to enshrine abortion rights in the country's constitution, in a move designed to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer. 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 can be amended, leaving enough time for lawmakers or voters to reject it. 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 in Poland put in place a near-total ban on abortion. Mathilde Panot, head of the hard- left France Unbowed party, told the National Assembly that the proposal was meant to ward off the fear that grips us when women s right are under attack elsewhere. The move 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. The justice minister, ric Dupond-Moretti, said on Thursday that 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. This is even more true when it comes to women's rights. In 1975, abortion in France was decriminalized, two years after Roe v. Wade, under a landmark law championed by Simone Veil. Although no political party questions this legalization today, debates on Thursday were raging about whether to amend the Constitution.

Fabien Di Filippo, a center-right lawmaker who abstained from voting, denounced those who want to open the door to a right that is 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 am 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 moments in the discussion when legislators were visibly moved with emotion. Aurore Berg, the leader of President Emmanuel Macron's party, Renaissance, told her colleagues about her mother's dangerous and painful abortion, which took place when it was still criminalized. Ms. Berg asked lawmakers to vote on 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 constitutionalize the right to contraception. But the proposal, which has a relative majority in Parliament, has been dropped by leftist lawmakers and instead focuses on abortion rights, in the hope of securing Senate approval of the bill. The bill was overwhelmingly approved by 337 to 32, with 18 abstaining. It was a rare example of bipartisanship in an otherwise factionalized Parliament.