April 2024 Church & State Magazine - April 2024

French lawmakers take steps to protect abortion rights


Legislators in France, alarmed by the erosion of abortion rights in America, have moved to enshrine the right to abortion in the nation’s constitution.

The push to protect abortion in France was sparked in part by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Macron: Don’t follow U.S. example on abortion (Photo by Kiran Ridley/Getty Images)

French lawmakers were clearly rattled by anti-abortion developments in the U.S. The Associated Press reported that President Emmanuel Macron vowed to protect abortion rights in France just hours after the U.S. high court overturned Roe on June 24, 2022.

It took nearly two years, but the new policy passed with overwhelming support. The AP reported that none of France’s chief political parties — including major far-right units — oppose legal abortion. Polls show support for legal abortion in France hovering around 85%.

Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church condemned the move, but on March 4 the bill passed both chambers of the French parliament by a lopsided vote of 780-72. In Paris, crowds gathered at the Eiffel Tower to watch the historic vote on jumbo screens. The tower was later illuminated with the phrase “My body, my choice.”

Mathilde Philip-Gay, a law professor at Jean Moulin University Lyon 3, told the AP that the vote was designed to protect abortion rights even in the face of possible political changes, such as a far-right government coming to power in France. French lawmakers, she said, are aware that “what happened in the U.S. can happen elsewhere in Europe, including in France,” and noted that putting a right to abortion in the French Constitution “will make it harder for abortion opponents of the future to challenge these rights.”

On its “Wall of Separation” blog, AU observed, “There was a time when the United States set the standard for personal and civil liberties. Our nation was an example for others to follow. Thanks to the Supreme Court’s embrace of a twisted definition of religious freedom and the ultra-conservative justices’ undermining of church-state separation, that mantle is being passed to other nations. Not only is the United States no longer leading the way when it comes to protecting fundamental human rights, but we’re struggling every day to avoid being dragged backward into a Christian Nationalist hellscape of de facto theocracy.”

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