The Senate gives the green light to the inclusion of abortion in the Constitution

The Senate gives the green light to the inclusion of abortion in the Constitution

A few days before International Women’s Day, the Senate largely adopted the bill aimed at including abortion in the Constitution. A world first… even if access to abortion remains unequal in Europe due to lack of resources.

This is big news for all women. 50 years after the Veil law, the Senate finally voted in favor of the government’s text which enshrines in the Constitution the guaranteed freedom of women to resort to abortion.

Europe is the first country in the world to include abortion in the Constitution

While some senators from the right and the center had shown reluctance towards the adoption of this text, last night, the hemicycle voted 267 votes against 50 in favor of a “freedom guaranteed“to voluntary termination of pregnancy. And this, without”edit text“, specifies the Public Senate website.

And “historic vote” believes Éric Dupond-Moretti, who made Europe “the first country in the world to enshrine this freedom in the Constitution.

For his part, the President welcomed the “decisive step” taken by the Senate.

I am committed to making women’s freedom to have an abortion irreversible by enshrining it in the Constitution. After the National Assembly, the Senate is taking a decisive step which I welcome. For the final vote, I will convene Parliament in Congress on March 4.”specified the head of state on Twitter.

Same story on the women’s side: “This is a huge feminist victory“, rejoiced the environmentalist senator Mélanie Vogel, welcoming “a major breakthrough” et “a message sent to feminists around the world“.

Behind the symbolic victory, unequal access to abortion in Europe

The inclusion in the Constitution will not change the way in which women resort to abortion in Europe today, it is not enough to improve things“, regrets the president of the Women’s Foundation, Anne-Cécile Mailfert.

Local maternity wards have been closed, abortion centers (voluntary termination of pregnancy) have been closed, which means that now women often have to go much further, it is much more complicated even though it should not be.“, she adds.

In Europe, where abortion has been decriminalized since the Veil law of 1975, the number of abortions has remained relatively stable for around twenty years at around 230,000 per year, with a peak observed in 2022 with 234,300 abortions performed.

But this number varies greatly depending on the territory. The latest figures from the Directorate of Research, Studies, Evaluation and Statistics (Drees, Ministry of Health) show a recourse rate which can range from 11.6 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 49 in the Pays de la Loire at 22.6 in Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur.

Access to abortion is “not uniform across the territory”, Magali Mazuy, researcher at the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED), reported to AFP in December: “A person who asks to have an abortion or who seeks practitioners will not have the same professionals and the same local culture in front of them relating to the consideration of this care.“, she notes.

A situation that Family Planning has been warning about for several years. During a press conference on Wednesday, its president Sarah Durocher was once again alarmed by “see some women forced to go to departments other than their own to have an abortion“.

In the crosshairs of health professionals and feminist associations, the closure of maternity hospitals – the number of these establishments increased from 1,369 in 1975 to 458 in 2020 – and IVG centers, 130 of which have closed in 15 years according to Family Planning.

IVGs are the “poor parents” of gynecological services

Within establishments still open, the situation is not better, according to the president of the National College of French Gynecologists and Obstetricians (CNGOF) Joëlle Belaisch-Allart, who calls for ensuring that “IVG are no longer poor parents in services“.

There must be areas in the operating theaters dedicated to abortion that no one can touch, whether or not there is a nurse anesthetist that day.“, she insists. “It is also necessary that when a woman asks for an appointment, she can have one within five days.“.

With medical desertification and the lack of doctors in certain territories, the possibility of choosing between a medical abortion and an instrumental abortion (intervention under anesthesia) is not always possible, note those in the field.

In order to strengthen access to abortion, a decree was issued in December to open the practice of instrumental abortion to midwives. But the conditions imposed, in particular the presence of 4 doctors, are too restrictive, according to professionals and associations.

On the one hand we are told that we are going to constitutionalize the right to abortion, on the other hand we publish a decree which is supposed to streamline access to abortion which in reality does not change much“, underlined Wednesday Suzy Rojtman, spokesperson for the Abortement en Europe collective.

As for the information around abortion, it remains fragmented and hampered by intense misinformation campaigns on social networks, according to the Women’s Foundation and Family Planning, the latter seeing this as “one of the first obstacles” to the right to abortion.

For Joëlle Belaisch-Allart, “the example of foreign countries should encourage us to exercise the greatest caution. The right to abortion is not threatened but we must remain vigilant because the problem of means is fundamental. If there are no means, this will end up threatening the right to abortion“.

The next legislative steps

After the Senate, it is now Parliament’s turn to vote, this Monday, March 4.

Nothing now prevents the convening of Parliament in Congress to revise the Constitution by a vote of 3/5ths of parliamentarians. It could be held Monday March 4 at 3:30 p.m.“, specifies the Public Senate website.