The importance of enshrining abortion rights in the French constitution

France is on the verge of making history by becoming the first country to include the right to abortion in its constitution. This move is seen as a significant step in safeguarding women’s reproductive rights and ensuring access to safe and legal abortion services. The decision comes amid growing concerns over the erosion of reproductive rights globally and is being hailed as a milestone in the fight for gender equality and bodily autonomy.

The proposed amendment to the French constitution has garnered widespread support, with polls indicating that around 85% of the French public back the reform. Supporters view this move as a crucial safeguard against potential rollbacks of abortion rights, particularly in the wake of regressive measures seen in other countries, such as the United States.

While the revision has been met with general approval, some critics have raised concerns about the politicization of the issue. President Emmanuel Macron’s motives have been called into question, with opponents accusing him of using the constitutional change to bolster his political standing and appeal to the left-wing electorate. However, despite these criticisms, the revision has managed to garner broad bipartisan support in parliament.

One of the primary arguments against the constitutional revision is whether abortion rights should be enshrined in the constitution in the first place. France has a long history of legislating on abortion through statutory law, dating back to 1975. The constitutional council has consistently upheld the legality of abortion, citing the principle of liberty enshrined in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Legal experts caution that embedding a series of “rights” in the constitution could undermine its function as a framework for governance, opening the door to potential challenges in the future. They point to the risk of expanding the constitution to include other contentious issues, such as surrogate motherhood, gay marriage, or environmental targets.

Despite these reservations, proponents of the constitutional revision argue that it is necessary to protect against the rise of conservative forces that seek to restrict reproductive rights across Europe. Countries like Malta, Hungary, and Poland have already implemented stringent limitations on abortion access, prompting fears of a broader backlash against women’s rights.

In the eyes of many advocates, the symbolism of enshrining abortion rights in the constitution carries significant weight. It serves as a powerful statement of commitment to gender equality and serves as a bulwark against potential threats to reproductive freedoms down the line. By taking this decisive step, France aims to send a clear message that women’s rights are non-negotiable and must be safeguarded at all costs.