Tuesday, November 29, 2022

French women push to cement abortion rights after US ruling

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The right to abortion in France does not appear to be threatened: it has been inscribed in the law for 47 years and enjoys wide support across the political spectrum. But more and more French women are asking: Could what happened in the United States happen here?

The US Supreme Court’s decision to strip women of the right to abortion has reverberated across Europe’s political landscape, forcing the issue back into public debate in France at a time of political turmoil.

With women increasingly occupying leadership positions in French politics, lawmakers from both chambers of parliament have proposed four bills to enshrine the right to abortion in the French constitution in order to defend it from future threats.

The most notable initiative comes from President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance. Critics on the left say Macron’s party is being opportunistic, while far-right critics accuse him of using the issue to distract from more pressing issues.

Abortion in France was decriminalized under a 1975 law named after Simone Veil, a prominent lawmaker, former health minister and key feminist who championed it.

“This right was fought for and it was inalienable,” said Yaël Braun-Pivet, the first woman elected president of the National Assembly, France’s most powerful parliamentary chamber. In her first speech before the camera last week, Braun-Pivet made inscribing the right to abortion into the French constitution a top priority.

“It is my conviction as a woman today that we must be the watchdog so that it stays in its place forever,” Braun-Pivet said.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne also expressed concern about the potential effects of the US Supreme Court decision on recent efforts to recriminalize abortion in Europe. Borne, the second woman in French history to be appointed prime minister, called the repeal of abortion rights in the United States a “historic turn in the wrong direction.”

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“It’s a clear warning that women’s rights should never be taken for granted,” Borne said last week after meeting with health care providers and reproductive health specialists in Paris. She called for these rights to be inscribed in the French Constitution and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

The European Union’s parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution condemning the US decision and urging that a sentence saying “Everyone has the right to a safe and legal abortion” be added to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Abortion is legal and practiced without much political opposition in most EU nations, but it is banned in Malta and severely restricted in Poland.

In France, a poll this week found a solid majority of those polled support abortion rights, including most voters who support Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party and conservative Republicans. The results were consistent with previous surveys.

However, the effort to inscribe abortion rights in the French constitution may not succeed if Macron’s political rivals decide they do not want to give him an easy victory.

Macron’s party lost its majority in the National Assembly in elections last month, while the leftist Nupes coalition became the largest opposition force and Le Pen’s National Rally won a record number of seats.

“No one questions the right to abortion,” Le Pen said on France-Info radio last week. Still, he criticized efforts to entrench abortion rights in the constitution, accusing Macron’s allies of “political deviation.”

“They want to change the focus of the main concerns of the French, which are purchasing power, security and out-of-control immigration,” Le Pen said.

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On the far left, lawmakers noted that Macron’s party has scrapped previous efforts to enshrine abortion in the constitution. Mathilde Panot, leader of the far-left parliamentary group France Unbowed, is now pressing Borne to propose a government bill on the issue rather than a bill that originated in parliament, which would speed up the process.

Last year, French lawmakers passed a law that extends the term of abortion from 12 to 14 weeks and allows midwives to perform the procedure.

Feminist activists marched in Paris last weekend to show solidarity with American women and support French efforts to seek constitutional guarantees.

“People think that women will always have this right, but given the rise of conservative political and religious movements, we have our doubts,” said Violaine De Filippis, a Parisian lawyer and feminist activist who joined the march.

Some experts say Macron’s lawmakers are being alarmist.

Anne Levade, a professor of public law at Sorbonne University, said in a blog post that “there is clearly no risk in France that the right to abortion will be called into question, as it has been in the US.”

But Mathilde Philip-Gay, a law professor and specialist in French and American constitutional law, said France’s Constitutional Court could also be influenced by politics if groups craft a long-term strategy to end abortion rights.

“It’s not on the agenda right now, but in 10 or 12 years, French judges could do the same thing that Supreme Court justices did,” Philip-Gay said.

An inscription in France’s constitution “could make it more difficult for abortion opponents to challenge these rights, but could not prevent them from doing so in the long run.”

This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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