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Macron promises to hasten abortion constitutional right

March 9, 2023 01:32 PM


French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday his government would put forward a draft law enshrining abortion rights in the French constitution within months.

In a speech paying tribute to the late Gisele Halimi, a feminist activist and pioneer for reproductive rights, Macron said an amendment to the constitution would be submitted to parliament.

"This will enshrine the freedom of women to choose abortion, and be a solemn guarantee that nothing can ever limit or abolish this right because it will have become irreversible," he said.

"The rights of women are always a fragile conquest," Macron said.

France's National Assembly had in November 2022 already voted in favour of the constitutional change, but without deciding on a timeline.

French senators this month also backed the plan but the chamber, where conservatives have a majority, modified the text's wording to "women's freedom" to abort, from parliament's "women's right".

Macron said Wednesday that progress made in parliamentary debates "will allow, that is my wish, to include in our basic law this freedom as part of a draft law that would revise our constitution and that will be prepared in the coming months".

The move may have been accelerated after the US Supreme Court overturned abortion rights in June, sparking pressure from campaigners for France to do the reverse in a symbol of its commitment to women's rights.

Macron was speaking at a national tribute for Halimi, who died in 2020 aged 93 after a long career as a lawyer, activist and politician.

In a landmark case in 1972, she won the acquittal of a minor who was on trial for abortion after becoming pregnant through rape.

But Macron's choice to focus on Halimi on International Women's Day sparked some resistance, even from within her family.

Her son Serge Halimi, a journalist, stayed away from the ceremony, saying it came "at a time when the country is rising up against an extremely unfair pensions reform".

Several Women's Day demonstrations across the country included protests against the retirement reform that some critics say gives women a worse deal than men.

Violaine Lucas, president of the "Choosing the cause of women" which Halimi co-founded in 1971, said politicians were "hijacking" Halimi's legacy for their own ends.

But Halimi's other son, Jean-Yves Halimi, spoke at Wednesday's ceremony, welcoming her "place in history" thanks to the tribute.

Abortions were de-criminalised in France in 1975.

Successive laws have aimed at making abortions safe, anonymous and free of charge.

But pro-choice associations say women wanting to abort still often face prejudice and hostility.

On Wednesday, several welcomed Macron's initiative to give abortion rights constitutional status.

The "Fondation des Femmes" ("Women's Foundation") said it was "a strong signal for all women in the world" that showed that "we support the struggle of women activists everywhere".

Pro-choice organisation Planning Familiale said the decision was a victory for feminist associations. "The world's feminists are looking to France," it said.

But the anti-abortion association Alliance Vita said Macron was making "crude and indecent political use of the painful question of abortion".



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