An overwhelming majority of the French National Assembly Thursday voted to add the right to abortion to the country’s constitution. The vote was proposed during a niche parlementaire, a day when one of the minority parties in the National Assembly controls its agenda. 337 members of France’s lower house of Parliament voted in favor of the motion, 32 members voted against and 18 abstained. The bill would add an article to the constitution to recognize that French law “guarantees the effectiveness of and equal access to the right to voluntary interruption of pregnancy.”
Mathilde Panot, the bill’s sponsor, first introduced the bill on October 7. It was sent to the Committee on Constitutional Laws, Legislation and General Administration of the Republic, which produced a report on November 16. During Thursday’s debate, Panot said the constitutional amendment was necessary to protect women from any eventual political shift that might call women’s rights into question. She cited the United States and several European countries as nations which have recently acted to strengthen restrictions on abortion. Emmanuelle Ménard, who voted against the proposed legislation, said the proposed bill was no more than a “political stunt.”
Having passed at the National Assembly, the bill will next go to the Senate, France’s upper legislative house. The Senate holds a veto power on constitutional matters and will have to adopt the proposed bill without amendment for it to proceed. If the Senate passes the bill, according to France’s constitutional amendment formula, the public will vote on the question in a referendum.