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France Enshrines Abortion Rights in Its Constitution After U.S. Rollback

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France became the world’s first country to explicitly enshrine abortion rights into its constitution amid a rollback in reproductive rights in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Following a final vote on Monday evening, the bill was approved by members of Parliament who had been summoned to Paris by President Emmanuel Macron for a special meeting at the Palace of Versailles. The historic bill to protect abortion rights needed at least three fifths of the vote to pass.

"We're sending a message to all women. Your body belongs to you and no one can decide for you," Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told MPs and senators who had gathered in congress.

The newly approved amendment protects women seeking abortions under Article 34 of France's 1958 constitution. Macron’s government proposed the wording, “The law determines the conditions by which is exercised the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed.”

In January, France’s National Assembly—the lower house of its Parliament—voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill. On Wednesday, the senate also endorsed the bill, tweaking the wording of the amendment to "guaranteed freedom" after pushback from conservatives.

The bill has been broadly well received across the political spectrum, with no major political parties in Parliament opposed. The move marks the 25th amendment made to the Fifth Republic's founding document.

In a post on X on Feb. 28, Macron said he is “committed to making women's freedom to have an abortion irreversible” with this bill. 

The legislation is inspired by the rollback of reproductive rights in a number of countries, particularly the U.S. In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, which had since 1973 provided federal protection of abortion rights to Americans.

“Unfortunately, this event is not isolated: in many countries, even in Europe, there are currents of opinion that seek to hinder at any cost the freedom of women to terminate their pregnancy if they wish,” the French legislation introduction states.

Abortions in France have been legal since 1975, and may take place until 14 weeks after conception, following updated legislation in 2022.

Following Wednesday’s senate approval, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said: “When women’s rights are attacked in the world, France stands up and places itself at the avant garde of progress.”

But observers say the initiative is a political effort from Macron to appeal to left-leaning figures in his Renaissance party after controversial stances on pension reform and immigration. 

Some have also argued that abortion is already constitutionally protected following a 2001 ruling in which France's constitutional council approved abortion under liberties enshrined in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man. 

Anne Levade, a law professor at Paris-Sorbonne University, told the BBC, “Beyond being a symbol… the revision will change absolutely nothing.”

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Write to Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com