Abortion in the Constitution: Macron’s statement… and doubts

The devil is in the details. By announcing this Wednesday, March 8, his desire to include in the Constitution “the freedom of women to resort to voluntary termination of pregnancy”, Emmanuel Macron draws the applause of the majority … and the doubts of the left. The head of state did confirm during a tribute to feminist lawyer Gisele Halimi that the change would be part “as part of a bill to revise our Constitution that will be drafted in the coming months.” “A comprehensive constitutional bill drafted in search of consensus,” the Élysée points out without further details.

These semantic subtleties are decisive. A bill devoted exclusively to abortion has every chance of being passed by 3/5 of the deputies and senators gathered in Congress. And for good reason: two chambers have in recent months approved a proposed constitutional law on the subject. Integrating this progress into broader institutional reform hides more uncertainties. Parliamentarians could defeat a text – with unknown content – with abortion as a collateral victim. So, Insoumise MP Mathilde Panot “warned” Emmanuel Macron on Twitter. “It would be the best way for the President to miss this historic opportunity and he will be held fully accountable.” “Yes, our Constitution will be changed,” welcomes the president of the Renaissance group, Aurora Berger, on the same social network.

“Direct Commitment of the President”

Dedicated or global account? The presidential verb inclines towards the second hypothesis. “It is not fixed, tempers the pillar of the Renaissance. But it would be better if it was an autonomous project, it is an independent object with a powerful symbolic charge. We have also demonstrated our ability to find a 3/5 majority on the issue with the Senate. But essentially, there is a direct commitment on the part of the president during the tribute to Gisele Halimi. This is the main fact. The result of this reform is not yet clear. But from a chimerical idea, it was formed through twists and turns and unexpected compromises.

Let’s go back to June 2022. The National Assembly takes office weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling granting states the power to ban abortion. The new president of the Renaissance group, Aurora Berger, announces the submission of a constitutional bill (PPLC) for the right to abortion, as does Nupes. This individual initiative takes the majority by surprise. We laugh at a publicity stunt that goes against the collective spirit. “She puts her poop on the abortion alone, she doesn’t talk to anyone,” then mocks the deputy MODEM.

initial doubts

And then this approach seems doomed to failure. Any amendment to the constitution must be passed by both houses of parliament at the same time. The senatorial majority slows down with four irons. “It’s hard for me to imagine that the Senate approves this type of political operation,” said Bruno Retaio, president of the LR Senators. “It will no longer be a Constitution, but a flea market,” his centrist colleague Hervé Marcel abounds. A place in the cemetery is already waiting for the Berger PPLC.

A glimmer of hope appears at the Assembly on 24 November. La France insoumise (LFI) advocates the constitutionalization of abortion during its parliamentary niche. The letter from the left is not unanimous, the debate is as legal as it is political. But the compromise breaks down: the text, amended by the amendment of MoDem deputy Ervan Balanant, is adopted by 337 votes against 32. The majority and Insoumis duplicate it. RN and LR are divided. “The law guarantees the validity and equal access to the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy,” he writes in our basic law.

Major changes in the Senate

All this does not decide anything in the Upper House. Right-wing senators seem adamant: this revision is “useless”, the right to abortion is already guaranteed by the case law of the Constitutional Council. The proposal was rejected by the committee on 25 January. But an unexpected twist revives the tension: Senator Philippe Ba, a former associate of Simone Weil, submits an amendment to rewrite the rebellious PPLC. In this sentence, the Channel Senator replaces “right” with “freedom”, a wording that is legally considered more subtle. Bingo! The text passes 166 votes against 152, despite the opposition of the majority of LR senators.

This vote shuffles the cards…half. A compromise is certainly looming between the two chambers, which must vote on the text under the same conditions in order for the procedure to proceed to the next stage. But this “next step” poses a problem. The PPLC is to lead to a referendum after it has been considered by the Assembly and the Senate. Supporters of the reform fear this decision, which could become an unexpected platform for anti-abortion opponents. “There is no need to reactivate these crazy people,” the deputy from the majority argues then.

Therefore, the executive branch must regain control through a constitutional bill (PJLC). Only this legislative means can open the way to Congress. There are discussions behind the scenes. Aurora Berger talks with Eric Thiers, adviser to Emmanuel Macron, specialist in constitutional change. The President makes the PJLC selection announced this Wednesday. He will use the wording of the Senate. “The text moved forward and a consensus was found,” says one of the visitors to the Elysee Palace. “The law determines the conditions under which a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy”: article 34 of the Constitution could be included in this formula. It will be presented to both houses prior to a vote in Parliament in Congress. Individually or in a large package? This choice may determine the outcome of the revision of the constitution.

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