On February 1, 2023, the French Senate approved an amendment to its Constitution by 166 votes in favor and 152 votes against to include access to abortion. This occurs after having rejected the inclusion of abortion in the Constitution in October 2022 with 139 votes in favor and 172 against.

The original amendment proposal to the French Constitution that was being debated and voted on consisted of adding a new article, 66.2, in Title VIII. In principle, the senators had opted for the phrase “the law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy.” This would have turned abortion into a right.

Faced with the original proposal by Philippe Bas, an amendment was presented, which consisted of adding a paragraph to article 34 of the French Constitution. It stated that: “The law determines the conditions under which the woman’s freedom is exercised to terminate her pregnancy.” A proposal that, surprisingly, convinced members of his party as well as others to the point of obtaining a sufficient majority for its approval.

The difference between the original proposal and the amendment finally approved is abysmal, since it replaces the term “right” with “freedom” with the legal consequences that it entails. Both terms coincide in that it is a freedom to do, but they differ in that a right implies the possibility of limiting the freedoms of others, being able to force them to do, give or not do something. In other words, every right entails a correlative duty on the part of third parties.

The approved amendment consecrates the freedom to act of the woman before the human being that she carries in her womb, in accordance with the legal framework that exists at any given time, but does not determine her right to end the existence of the unborn child.

In any case, since the favorable vote was on a modification of the original amendment proposal, the bill will be sent to the National Assembly for a second reading. In fact, a constitutional bill must be voted on by both chambers, the Senate and Congress, and then submitted to a referendum to be definitively adopted, so it will continue.

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