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Wednesday May 22, 2024

French president promises abortion constitutional right in months

Macron says an amendment to constitution will be submitted to parliament

By AFP
March 08, 2023
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a ceremony in tribute to late French feminist figure Gisele Halimi at Paris courthouse, on March 8, 2023. — AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a ceremony in tribute to late French feminist figure Gisele Halimi at Paris' courthouse, on March 8, 2023. — AFP

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday his government would put forward a draft law enshrining abortion rights in the French constitution within months.

In a speech paying tribute to the late Gisele Halimi, a feminist activist and pioneer for reproductive rights, Macron said an amendment to the constitution would be submitted to parliament.

"This will enshrine the freedom of women to choose abortion, and be a solemn guarantee that nothing can ever limit or abolish this right because it will have become irreversible," he said.

"The rights of women are always a fragile conquest," Macron said.

France's National Assembly had in November 2022 already voted in favour of the constitutional change, but without deciding on a timeline.

The move has been accelerated after the US Supreme Court overturned abortion rights in June, sparking pressure from campaigners for France to do the reverse in a symbol of its commitment to women's rights.

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a ceremony in tribute to late French feminist figure Gisele Halimi at Paris courthouse, on March 8, 2023. — AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a ceremony in tribute to late French feminist figure Gisele Halimi at Paris' courthouse, on March 8, 2023. — AFP

Macron was speaking at a national tribute for Halimi, who died in 2020 aged 93 after a long career as a lawyer, activist and politician.

In a landmark case in 1972, she won the acquittal of a minor who was on trial for abortion after becoming pregnant through rape.

But Macron's choice to focus on Halimi on International Women's Day sparked some resistance, even from within her family.

Her son Serge Halimi, a journalist, stayed away from the ceremony, saying it came "at a time when the country is rising up against an extremely unfair pensions reform".

Several Women's Day demonstrations across the country included protests against the retirement reform that some critics say gives women a worse deal than men.

Abortions were de-criminalised in France in 1975.

Successive laws have aimed at making abortions safe, anonymous and free of charge.

But pro-choice associations say women wanting to abort still often face prejudice and hostility.