Marine Le Pen, who initially opposed President Emmanuel Macron’s demagogic push to make abortion a constitutional right in France, called on her political group’s deputies to vote in favor of this amendment as a patriotic duty.
The call to make abortion a constitutional right in France initially arose in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that reverted the Roe v. Wade 1973 verdict.
Last Tuesday, out of 575 deputies in the French National Assembly, 493 voted in favor of enshrining women’s “freedom to abort” in the French Constitution, with only 28 deputies voting against, including 12 from Le Pen’s National Rally (out of 88), 14 from the center-right Les Républicains (LR) party (out of 62), and two who are non-affiliated.
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From Macron’s center to the extreme left, all French deputies voted in favor of making abortion a constitutional right for women, at the expense of the right to life of the unborn child.
Those in favor of this amendment, including those in the president’s political camp, say France will be sending a strong message to the world by being the first country in the world to have abortion in its constitution. According to the constitutional amendment’s authors themselves, who are all members of Modem, a centrist party allied to Macron’s Renaissance party and part of the governing coalition, “It sends a signal to the rest of the world by making France the first country to include abortion in its fundamental law.”
However, as LR deputy Xavier Breton noted during the discussions on Tuesday, France was preceded in this by communist Yugoslavia in 1974. Breton is one of the few MPs who openly opposed the constitutional amendment and eventually voted against it.
Another notable opponent to this amendment is Senate Speaker Gérard Larcher, whose political group, LR, holds a majority in the upper house of the French Parliament. Not that Larcher is against abortion, but, as he said in January: “Abortion is not under threat in our country. If it were under threat, believe me, I’d fight to see it maintained. But I believe that the constitution is not a catalog of social and societal rights.”
In February last year, the French Senate nonetheless voted in favor of having the “freedom to abort” written into the constitution, with 166 votes in favor and 152 against, out of 348 senators in total.
For this amendment to become part of France’s constitution, it will have to be adopted, without further debate, through a three-fifths majority of the vote cast by the congress of the French Parliament, which is the joint meeting of both houses of parliament gathering at the Palace of Versailles.
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Thanks to the support of both Le Pen’s National Rally and the center-right leaders in the National Assembly, the French Constitution is almost certain to be amended so that its first article will state: “The law shall determine the conditions under which a woman’s right to have a voluntary interruption of pregnancy is exercised.”
The French left, who voted unanimously in favor of this amendment, initially wanted this to be described not as a “freedom” to abort, as in the title of the constitutional law that was adopted on Tuesday by the National Assembly, but as a “right” to abortion. Mathilde Panot, the National Assembly leader of France Unbowed (LFI), the biggest political group on the left, is openly in favor of a woman’s right to abort until the ninth month of pregnancy, as are many of her colleagues.
In 2021, a National Assembly where Macron’s political party still held an absolute majority passed a “bioethics” bill that would have extended the availability of abortion on demand in France to the ninth month of pregnancy, as is today the case in only a handful of countries (namely: communist China, Vietnam, North Korea, and Canada, as well as a few U.S. states governed by Democrats). That part of the bill was luckily voted down in the Senate and was not reinstated thereafter in the vote that followed in the National Assembly, which always has the last say in case of discrepancies between the two houses.
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Unfortunately, President Macron’s push for making “freedom to abort” a constitutional right without simultaneously reinforcing the conscience clause and the protection for the life of the unborn in France’s fundamental law could open the way for future laws that will suppress both the conscience clause for health professionals and time limits on a woman’s right to abort.
Marine Le Pen’s support for putting abortion in the French constitution came as a deception to those who believed she and her party were still more conservative than the center-right LR. Ludovine de La Rochère, the leader of Manif pour Tous, the movement that opposed gay marriage in the early 2010s, openly wondered on Radio Courtoisie on Thursday what Le Pen understood by the word “patriotic” when she called for a “patriotic vote” of National Rlaly deputies in favor of the constitutional amendment.
She also pointed out that what is really needed in France now is to give pregnant women who find themselves in a difficult situation the freedom to give birth to their child instead of having to abort. Shelters are only available to such women from the sixth month of pregnancy, and most don’t even know they exist.
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The pro-life NGOs that used to inform women in France about how they could find help to bring their pregnancy to term and raise their children have long deserted the country’s abortion clinics because of a law that makes it a crime to exert any kind of pressure on a woman not to abort — while it is no longer a crime in France to exert pressure on a woman to make her abort.
This is in a situation where France has more abortions than any other EU country and more than it ever had in the last three decades, with 234,253 abortions registered in France in 2022. Meanwhile, the number of live births is decreasing fast, with only 678,000 live births in 2023.
In late 2022, when LFI deputies tabled a bill to amend the French constitution in favor of a right to abort a woman’s child, Le Pen and her party shocked many of her traditional voters by responding with a more “moderate” amendment meant to enshrine France’s current abortion law in the constitution.
The French media described this as “a complete change for the RN,” noting that “until now, Marine Le Pen had always maintained that she was against the constitutionalization of abortion, and she reaffirmed this on Nov. 13 in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche: “We are not the United States. No political party in France is calling for this right to be abolished. So I don’t really understand what threat this demand for constitutionalization is responding to.”
Then, in October 2023, when it was announced by President Macron that he would propose a bill to make abortion a constitutional right in France, Le Pen said there was no use in doing so.
Ultimately, however, knowing very well that all the big media outlets in France are in favor of free access to abortion, she had most of her deputies vote in favor, once more raising questions about whether an election victory for Marine Le Pen and the National Rally would really lead to any substantive change in France.
When I interviewed Marine Le Pen at the National Front’s headquarters near Paris in January 2015, for the Polish weekly Do Rzeczy, she told me: “I don’t think it’s possible to ban abortion today. But we must do everything we can to limit the number of abortions. Not by forcing women not to have abortions, but by giving them a real choice. Today, everything is done to encourage abortion. If we put in place natalist proposals and offer women privileged access to housing, with aid to enable them to bring up their children properly, if we organize campaigns to make young women and men more responsible, we can help limit abortion. The fact that the number of abortions has not fallen is undoubtedly a failure on the part of our society, but in reality, it’s a battle that hasn’t been fought.”
But this is ancient history, and it looks like she won’t be the one to take up this battle.