Abortion in the constitution in France: an historic step

Published on 8 March 2024 at 08:48
IVG Constitution - Anne Derenne

On 4 March, abortion was enshrined in the French Constitution, making France the first country in the world to take such a step.

The vote was approved by a large majority (780 out of 920 MPs), with some opposition from parties on the right. The approved text - "The law determines the conditions under which a woman's guaranteed freedom to have a voluntary interruption of pregnancy is exercised." - does not mention the "right to abortion." This goes against the demands of a segment of the feminist movement who argued that this would give victims of noncompliance recourse to the state, as is the case with the right to education.

The measure emerges from an international context marked by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in 2022 to abolish the federal right to abortion, and the struggle in some European countries for women's full right to bodily autonomy, as well as anti-abortion campaigns conducted, especially online, by far-right movements. Although abortion is legal everywhere in Europe, it is only permitted in Poland and Malta in cases of rape, or if the mother's life is at risk.

Although historic, this measure will not guarantee real access to abortion in France (where it has been legal since 1975), due to the dwindling number of maternity clinics (falling from 1,369 in 1975 to 458 in 2020) and family planning centers where abortions are performed. 17 percent of women who want to access abortion services cannot do so in their department of residence, with peaks in some areas of 48 percent.

Receive the best of European journalism straight to your inbox every Thursday

Was this article useful? If so we are delighted!

It is freely available because we believe that the right to free and independent information is essential for democracy. But this right is not guaranteed forever, and independence comes at a cost. We need your support in order to continue publishing independent, multilingual news for all Europeans.

Discover our subscription offers and their exclusive benefits and become a member of our community now!

Are you a news organisation, a business, an association or a foundation? Check out our bespoke editorial and translation services.

Support independent European journalism

European democracy needs independent media. Join our community!

On the same topic