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Senate: uncertain vote on the project to include the right to abortion in the Constitution

The subject has been animating the quiet corridors of the Luxembourg Palace for several weeks.

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Senate: uncertain vote on the project to include the right to abortion in the Constitution

The subject has been animating the quiet corridors of the Luxembourg Palace for several weeks. This Wednesday afternoon, senators will have to decide. Should the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion) be included in the Constitution? And should it be done in the exact terms proposed by the government? If this were the case, a Congress would then be convened in Versailles very soon and parliamentarians will once again have to decide on the text, which must be adopted by three-fifths of the members to be included in the fundamental text.

But the matter is not yet won for the executive. In their bill, the Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti, and that of Equality between women and men, Aurore Bergé, want to constitutionalize the fact that “the law determines the conditions in which the exercise of freedom guaranteed to women to have recourse to an abortion. A formulation that upsets the senatorial majority, made up of the Republicans and the centrist Union.

The President of the Senate also spoke publicly about it a few weeks ago, judging that “the Constitution is not a catalog of social and societal rights”. A “personal” position, he took care to specify. An opinion also shared by the boss of the LR group in the Upper House, Bruno Retailleau, and by his colleague Hervé Marseille, who chairs the centrist Union. But after these successive positions, the National Assembly largely adopted, at the end of January, the government's bill, by 493 votes to 30, with the vote of a majority of LR deputies, including the president of the party in person , Eric Ciotti. Enough to unwind some LR senators? Possibly, some people think they know.

Also read: Jean-Éric Schoettl: “The constitutionalization of the right to abortion is agit-prop”

Already in 2023, during the examination of a bill, the Senate had voted in principle to constitutionalize abortion, however modifying the terms of that which had been adopted in the Assembly , then defended by the Insoumise Mathilde Panot. The government then decided to take up the subject again, endorsing the inclusion of “guaranteed freedom”, preferred to “right”. A semantic choice aimed at finding a compromise between the two chambers. But this is not enough, believe the leaders of the Senate Law Committee, who fear that the term “guarantee” creates an “enforceable right to abortion”. At a LR group meeting on Tuesday morning, several of them spoke to defend this position, including Agnès Canayer, rapporteur of the bill in the Senate, François-Noël Buffet, president of the law committee, and Philippe Bas .

“We have some concerns about this term. Either it is useless, because all the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution are in fact guaranteed, or it is, but then, what are the legal effects? No one is able to clearly reassure us,” expresses Agnès Canayer. Two amendments were thus tabled to reformulate the government's text and validate, in different terms, the inclusion of abortion in the Constitution. “We do not want a consistent vote, because the government communicated the date of the Congress (several members of the executive very early on mentioned the date of March 5, Editor’s note) before the Senate had decided. It's very bad manners. It’s bad manners in Parliament,” criticizes an LR executive from the Palais du Luxembourg.

But will those who wish to rewrite this text be in the majority? Many are beginning to doubt it. “There is a kind of demobilization of those who were hostile to the text. I don't feel any warlike will. I have the impression that many want to turn the page,” admits without disguise the boss of the centrist Union, Hervé Marseille. Senator LR Agnès Evren, for her part, assumes: she will abstain on her colleagues' amendments and will vote for the government's formulation. “This is an important meeting that we must not miss. As the European elections approach, it is important that France sends a message to the whole world by being the first to include this fundamental right in the Constitution,” she argues. His colleague Philippe Tabarot, for his part, is ironic about the changes in position of some of his neighbors in the chamber: “I have the impression that they are quite sensitive to external pressure. The polls, the media pressure, all this seems to play quite a role.”

In all groups, freedom of voting was given. And the final result seems more uncertain than ever, given the composition of the Upper House. A Senate executive predicts: “A third of the centrist group will vote for the government's version, a third of LR senators may also be in favor of it, and as the entire left will vote for it, it could pass.”

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