French lawmakers approve bill enshrining abortion rights in the constitution
Lawmakers applaud after a vote to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution, at the National Assembly in Paris, on November 24, 2022. © Sarah Meyssonier, Reuters

French lawmakers voted on Thursday to enshrine abortion rights in the constitution, with MPs on the left and centre saying the US Supreme Court's overturning of a landmark ruling in June showed the need for new steps.

The vote in the National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament, marks only the first step on the path to enshrining the right to abortion in the constitution.

In order to change the constitution, a bill must be voted on in the same terms by the lower house and the Senate.

The latter is controlled by the right and last month rejected a cross-party bill aimed at constitutionalizing the right to abortion and contraception.

Women have had a legal right to abortion in France since a law adopted in 1974, and updated several times since, with the latest modification in February extending access to abortion to 14 weeks of pregnancy from 12.

Adding it to the constitution would further protect this right and make it harder to overturn in France, said La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) lawmaker Mathilde Panot.

"It aims to prevent any regression," Panot told parliament. "We don't want to give any chance to people hostile to abortion and contraception rights."

Abortion rights are more widely accepted in France than in the United States or some fellow EU countries. Some 83% of French people are happy with the fact that abortion is legal, an Ifop poll showed in July, 16 percentage points more than about 30 years ago.

The same poll showed 81% back adding the right to abortion in the constitution.

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters)