Macron wants abortion access inscribed in EU charter of rights

France becomes first country to explicitly guarantee freedom to abortion in constitution

The ‘guaranteed freedom’ will come into force tomorrow (March 9)
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French president Emmanuel Macron vowed today was “the beginning of the fight” to see abortion rights granted throughout Europe, as France became the first country to explicitly enshrine the procedure in its constitution.

The ‘guaranteed freedom’ for women to access an abortion was inscribed into Article 34 of France’s constitution after a parliamentary congress earlier this week voted overwhelmingly in favour of the change.

Read more: Special Eiffel Tower message at France’s historic abortion right vote

The president, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, and Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti used a 19th-century press to stamp the approval at an event in Paris today, International Women’s Day (March 8).

It was the first time a sealing ceremony has been held in public, with crowds gathering to celebrate the changes.

President Macron also paid homage to the 343 women who penned a famous ‘manifesto for abortion’ in France in 1971, as well as to numerous French feminist figures.

These included Olympes de Gouges, who wrote the ‘declaration of the rights of women and female citizens’ and Simone Veil, the architect of France’s abortion laws.

Read more: Simone Veil: a force for good, for women, for France, for all

The changes will come into force on Saturday (March 9), when the change is published in France’s Journal Officiel.

However, there is still some debate over whether the term ‘guaranteed freedom’ as opposed to ‘right’ means the state is required to set up, fund, and manage abortion facilities.

Currently, 100% of the medical costs for an abortion are covered by social security payments.

Macron wants abortion rights across Europe

In a speech commemorating the changes, Mr Macron said he wanted to include the "guaranteed freedom to [be able to] have an abortion" in the EU’s charter of fundamental human rights.

“We will not rest until this promise is kept throughout the world,” he said, before adding “we will wage this battle on our continent, in our Europe.”

France has become the first country in the world to make an explicit reference to abortion (interruption volontaire de grossesse) in its constitution, although some other nations have more ambiguous readings in their national texts.

In the EU, abortion is widely available, however there are still some countries where it is banned (Andorra, Malta), decriminalised but not legally available (Monaco), or only possible in cases of rape, incest, or a life-threatening illness to the mother (Poland).

Hungary's government has also tightened its abortion rules.

France hopes its change will spur others into action, particularly as abortion rights are being stripped back across the world.

France has not changed its laws regarding when an abortion must be had – currently this is only allowed within the first 14 weeks of a pregnancy.

However any future restrictions on this law will need to pass the scrutiny by France’s constitutional council, who are unlikely to accept them now the guarantee is within the constitution.

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