France on the Verge of Enshrining Abortion Rights in its Constitution


France stands on the cusp of permanently enshrining the right to abortion in its Constitution. This move comes after the Senate, predominantly controlled by the right-wing, on Wednesday adopted, with 267 votes in favor and 50 against, exactly the same text approved on January 30 by the National Assembly. If the joint session, known as the Congress, approves the text next week with a minimum of three-fifths of parliamentarians, the fundamental law will have a new paragraph stating: “The law determines the conditions under which women are guaranteed the freedom to resort to voluntary termination of pregnancy.”


The push for constitutional recognition of abortion rights in France began in the summer of 2022, following the landmark decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade ruling. This decision prompted concerns about potential threats to abortion rights, not only in the United States but also in European countries like Poland. In response, both the left-wing parties and President Emmanuel Macron advocated for the inclusion of abortion rights in the French Constitution.

While support for abortion rights in France is widespread and transcends ideological divides, there was a desire to safeguard these rights against potential future threats. The aim was to prevent any future leaders or parties with parliamentary majorities from overturning the 1973 French abortion law. In November 2022, the National Assembly, dominated by Macron’s party, approved, with 337 votes in favor and 32 against, the inscription of “the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy” in the Constitution.

Debate and Compromise

In February 2023, the Senate adopted its own version of the text. However, it replaced the phrase “right to voluntary termination of pregnancy” with “freedom of women to terminate their pregnancy.” This semantic difference sparked divisions, and the initiative was put on hold. President Macron reignited the debate in March during a speech honoring the historic lawyer and feminist Gisèle Halimi. He emphasized the need to change the Constitution to ensure the freedom of women to access abortion services.

To bridge the gap between the National Assembly and the Senate, President Macron presented a compromise text in December. The aim was to garner support from the left, center, and right-wing parties and achieve the required two-fifths majority in the Congress to adopt the constitutional amendment. The compromise text referred to “freedom” rather than “right” to abortion but specified that this freedom must be “guaranteed.”

Legislative Process

During the recent Senate session, a member of The Republicans (LR), the main moderate right-wing party, proposed an amendment to remove the word “guaranteed” from the text. Had this amendment been adopted, the amended text would have needed to be resubmitted to the National Assembly, potentially prolonging the process of enshrining abortion rights in the Constitution.

However, the amendment proposed by Senator Philippe Bas was rejected by 214 votes against 104. Another amendment from the right-wing to introduce a conscience clause for doctors who refuse to perform abortions was also defeated by 219 votes against 85. Subsequently, the Senate adopted the same text as the National Assembly, with support from the left, center, and right-wing parties.


With both chambers of the French Parliament having approved the text, the final vote will take place in Versailles, the seat of the Congress. If the Congress approves the text with the required majority, France will officially amend its Constitution to recognize and guarantee the freedom of women to access abortion services. This landmark decision would solidify France’s commitment to reproductive rights and mark a significant step forward in ensuring women’s autonomy and healthcare rights.