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French lawmakers vote to add abortion rights to the constitution

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Lawmakers in France’s parliament voted Thursday to add the right to abortion to the constitution, in response to recent changes in Poland and the United States.

Lawmakers from the left-wing France Unbowed (LFI) party and the ruling center coalition reached an agreement on the wording of the new clause, which was passed by an overwhelming majority.

“The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy,” reads the proposed constitutional addition to Article 66.

It was approved by 337 votes to 32, and the bill will now be sent to the Senate with a Conservative majority for ratification.

The initiative was fueled by this year’s explosive decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the state’s national right to layoffs for Americans.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted abortion rights.

LFI MP Mathilde Panot dedicated the vote to women in Hungary, Poland and the United States, saying: “The assembly talks to the world, our country talks to the world.”

Panot, who spearheaded the legislation with a member of President Emmanuel Macron’s party, said the move was necessary to “guard against a backslide” in France.

Abortion in France was legalized by law in 1974 by Health Minister Simone Veil, a women’s rights icon who was given the rare honor of being buried in the Pantheon by Macron after his death in 2018.

– Legal for 48 years –

An earlier attempt to enshrine the right to abortion and contraception separately in the French constitution was rejected by the Senate in October.

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This second attempt would also need the green light in the Senate and would then be voted on in a national referendum.

“It’s a big step… but it’s only the first step,” said centrist lawmaker Sacha Houli of Macron’s Renaissance party.

Thursday’s accord was a rare example of reconciliation between the far-left LFI and Macron’s centrist allies in the hanged and often ill-tempered National Assembly.

Macron’s minority government has repeatedly struggled to pass legislation and found it difficult to work with different political factions.

Many Conservative and Catholic politicians expressed doubts about the abortion change, seeing it as unnecessary given the legal protections it already had.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whose National Rally is the largest opposition party in parliament, said earlier this week that it was “completely wrong” that abortion rights were not under threat in France.

A spokeswoman said she missed Thursday’s vote “for medical reasons”.

The parliamentary voting system initially erroneously indicated that it had voted in favor of the text.

– Due to an error in the parliamentary voting system, an earlier version of this story stated in the last paragraph that Marine Le Pen had voted in favor of the motion. She was absent to vote. ,

cds-adc-adp /ah/des

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