The Mercury News

Macron calls for putting right to abortion in constituti­on

- By Roger Cohen

Rendering homage to Gisele Halimi, a feminist lawyer instrument­al in the legalizati­on of abortion in France, President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday that a bill would be prepared “in the coming months” to enshrine in the constituti­on the freedom to choose a “voluntary terminatio­n of a pregnancy.”

A national law made abortion legal in France in 1975, and no serious threat to its legality exists today, but the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court last year to overturn the constituti­onal right to an abortion has galvanized French efforts to protect and recognize abortion as an inalienabl­e right.

“Courts in other countries in the world have returned to the question of women's rights because reactionar­y ideologues are seeking their revenge on the lawyers and activists who once made them retreat,” Macron said. It was clear to which country he was alluding.

Debate on safeguardi­ng abortion rights through an amendment of the constituti­on began last year in the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament, and continued this year in the Senate. Both have backed the idea, but with different wording.

Macron's mention of a drafting of a constituti­onal law bill within “months” injected a new urgency into the process and gave it his personal imprimatur.

Halimi, who died in 2020 at age 93, was a Tunisianbo­rn French attorney and socialist lawmaker widely recognized for her unstinting struggle for the legalizati­on of abortion in France, which occurred in 1975, two years after the Roe v. Wade ruling in the United States.

“Injustice is physically intolerabl­e to me,” Halimi, who was born into a conservati­ve Jewish family in Tunis, said in 1988. “My entire life can be summed up by that. Everything started with the hated Arab, then the Jew, then the colonized, and then women.”

Macron, speaking at the Palais de Justice courthouse in central Paris, said he hoped the “force” of Halimi's “message” would “help us change our constituti­on in order to engrave in it the freedom of women to voluntaril­y interrupt a pregnancy, so that nothing can obstruct or undo what would then be irreversib­le.”

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