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HomeNewsAsiaFrench bishops reiterate opposition to enshrining abortion in constitution

French bishops reiterate opposition to enshrining abortion in constitution

As French lawmakers prepared to convene in a joint session in Versailles on Monday to confirm the amendment that would enshrine abortion as a constitutional right, the French bishops reiterated that abortion “remains an attack on human life” that must be protected from its inception, and that “it cannot be seen exclusively from the perspective of women’s rights.”

Constitutional amendment approved by National Assembly and Senate

The new bill presented to the Council of Ministers in December 2023 by then Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, wants Article 34 of the Constitution amended to specify that “the law determines the conditions by which is exercised the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed.”

Its latest version was approved by the French Senate on Wednesday, 28 February, after the National Assembly, the lower chamber, gave its go-ahead in January with an overwhelming majority vote.

Abortion was decriminalized in France in 1975 under the presidency of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.

According to President Emmanuel Macron’s government, the new measure is a response to the recent rollback on so-called abortion rights in the United States, following the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court overturning of the Roe v. Wade ruling, which had protected abortion nationally since 1973.

Protection of women and children at centre

In a statement released last week, the Bishops’ Conference of France (CEF) expressed “sadness” upon learning the outcome of the Senate’s vote on Wednesday, in which only 50 Senators voted against the proposed text.

While acknowledging the difficulties that may force some women to resort to abortion, the bishops lamented that “support measures for those who would like to keep their child” have not been discussed in the debate.

According to the statement, the French Constitution should instead place the “protection of women and children at its centre.”

Need to protect freedom of conscience

The bishops further assured their closeness to those “parents who decide to keep their child,” even in difficult situations, and asked for respect “for the freedom of conscience of doctors and all healthcare personnel,” praising their “courage and dedication.”

The bishops of France had already expressed their strong opposition to the proposed text in a statement released during their plenary assembly in November 2023 entitled “All life is a gift.”

Citing Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium they remarked that the defence of the life of unborn children is “intimately linked to the defence of all human rights.”

In the past weeks, several French bishops have also taken a public stance on this issue. Archbishop Olivier de Germay of Lyon, denounced what he called “a denial of democracy,” highlighting the difficulty “of expressing opinions on this subject without incurring the risk of being targeted by the media.”

In an interview with the Catholic newspaper La Croix, Archbishop Pascal Wintzer of Poitiers lamented that “death seems more protected than life is encouraged.”

Day of prayer and fasting against abortion

On Monday, the Presidency of the CEF issued a new statement ahead of the final vote in Versailles, inviting Catholics across the country to join in prayer and fasting for the rejection of the amendment.

“As Catholics, we must continue to serve life from conception to death, to be artisans of respect for every human being, which is always a gift given to all others, and to support those who choose to keep their child even in difficult circumstances,” the bishops said.

They noted that France is the only European country where the number of abortions has not decreased and even increased in the last two years.

“Let us pray that our fellow citizens will rediscover the taste for life, for giving it, for receiving it, for accompanying it, for having and raising children,” the bishops concluded.

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