By 337 votes against 32, the National Assembly voted the right to abortion in the Constitution. This proposal by the rebellious deputy Mathilde Panot must however receive the essential approval of the Senate.
The National Assembly voted on November 24 in favor of the inclusion of the right to abortion in the Constitution on a proposal from the deputies La France insoumise (LFI), reinvigorated by this “historic” victory in the midst of the slump of the Quatennens affair, before a chaotic end to the session.
A standing ovation from a large part of the Hemicycle welcomed this adoption by 337 votes to 32, after a tense debate with Les Républicains (LR) and the National Rally (RN) who had tabled hundreds of amendments .
However, there is still a long way to go for this inclusion of the right to abortion in the highest norm of the legal order to be effective, particularly given the essential endorsement of the Senate.
A chaotic sitting in the Hemicycle
It is a “historic victory for women in France and around the world”, rejoiced the president of the LFI group, Mathilde Panot, who carried this text at the top of the agenda for a day reserved for proposals for his group.
Among the texts they defended, the deputies La France insoumise decided to withdraw at the last moment their flammable proposal for a total ban on bullfighting, which had been the subject, like that on abortion, of hundreds of amendments.
This withdrawal made it possible to begin examining their request to reinstate staff not vaccinated against Covid-19 in health establishments, to make up for staffing shortages.
With the support of LR deputies and of the RN group, the proposal seemed to be able to be adopted. But with suspensions of sessions and amendments, the presidential camp compromised the holding of the vote, triggering the anger of the opposition and elected officials from overseas who felt “despised”.
However, elected officials from the LFI and the presidential camp had previously succeeded in finding rare common ground on abortion, in order to “prevent a regression” for women, as recently in the United States or sometimes in Europe, has argued Mathilde Panot.
The text adopted on November 24, the result of a cross-partisan rewriting, can be summed up in one sentence: “The law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy.”
The alterations made during the debates aim to respond to the reluctance of some MEPs, linked to the contested mention of the right to contraception in an initial version, and to a wording which raised fears of the introduction of a right to abortion “without limit”.
The National Rally Against Abortion?
“We honor parliamentary work with this vote”, underlined MoDem MP Erwan Balanant, one of the architects of this “overcoming of divisions”. “But the fight is not over,” he added, referring to the green light to be obtained in the Senate, far from certain after a negative vote in October.
Aurore Bergé, president of the Renaissance group, has decided to withdraw her own text on the subject. A “very great gesture”, greeted the Keeper of the Seals Eric Dupond-Moretti, who expressed his “emotion” after the vote.
In front of the deputies, Aurore Bergé gave a testimony, saying that her mother had had an abortion which “did not go very well”, “at a time when it was illegal in our country”.
Despite this success in the Assembly, Mathilde Panot, like many deputies, urged the government to present its own bill to constitutionalize abortion.
A text coming from the government should also obtain the approval of the Senate but, unlike a proposal for a parliamentary initiative, it would not need to be submitted to a referendum at the end of the race. A dreaded ordeal, as it could, some fear, mobilize anti-abortion networks.
The debates lasted for long hours, while within the LR group, the members of the Parliamentary Entente for the Family rose to the front, in favor of a “balance” between “freedom of women” and “protection of life to be born”.
The RN group, whose members have taken positions hostile to abortion, defended comparable arguments. “Not a single representative political movement” is against abortion, but this right is not “unconditional”, argued Marine Le Pen, absent at the time of the vote, in reference to the deadlines for abortion and to the conscience clause of doctors.
“Pretexts” for “not saying that you are against abortion”, launched Mathilde Panot to them, who denounced, like Eric Dupond-Moretti, the “parliamentary obstruction” of the right and the extreme right with their hundreds of amendments.
LR and RN finally split between for, against and abstention.