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French lawmakers gather for a historic vote that will make abortion a constitutional right

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A bill to enshrine a woman’s right to an abortion in the French constitution goes to a historic vote on Monday, as lawmakers gather for a joint session of parliament at the Palace of Versailles.

The measure was promised by President Emmanuel Macron following a rollback of abortion rights in court rulings in the United States.

Macron’s government wants Article 34 of the French constitution amended to specify that “the law determines the conditions by which is exercised the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed.”

The lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, overwhelmingly approved the proposal in January. The Senate adopted the bill on Wednesday, clearing a key hurdle for legislation promised by Macron’s government, intended to make “a woman’s right to have an abortion irreversible.”

The measure must be approved by a three-fifths majority in the joint session.

None of France’s major political parties represented in parliament has questioned the right to abortion, which was decriminalized in 1975. With both houses of parliament having adopted the bill, Monday’s joint session at the Palace of Versailles is expected to be largely a formality.

The government argued in its introduction to the bill that the right to abortion is threatened in the United States, where the Supreme Court in 2022 overturned a 50-year-old ruling that used to guarantee it.

“Unfortunately, this event is not isolated: in many countries, even in Europe, there are currents of opinion that seek to hinder at any cost the freedom of women to terminate their pregnancy if they wish,” the introduction to the French legislation says.

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