Abortion in the constitution: are LR senators ready to change their position?

Is the senatorial right changing its position on including the right to abortion in the constitution? 1eh February, the High Assembly will consider a text on this for the second time in four months. And against all odds, the debates may not take place as in the autumn, when the LR group in the Senate, during a tense public session, overwhelmingly rejected a bill co-signed by the environmentalist, the socialist, the communist and the RDPI (with the LREM majority) of the high assembly.

The second text, on the initiative of LFI deputies, adopted in the national assembly last November, was therefore logically rejected by the law committee on Wednesday 25 January. But the following day, the quaestor of the Senate, Philippe Bas (LR), presented an amendment to open the door to the right to abortion in the constitution under a different wording. “I don’t know why he changed his mind. It’s an incredible move. In my opinion, it must be turbulent in the LR group,” says a left-wing senator.

The senator from La Manche, a former close collaborator of Simone Veil, could not be reached at the time of writing, but his entourage denies any change of pace. “He never ruled out a constitutional reference to abortion, he simply said that the October text was very poorly written”. Indeed, during the previous session, Philippe Bas had addressed the left-wing benches in these terms: “Come back with a good text and we’ll talk about it again!”.

“The parliamentary debate begins”

The left, who had taken this argument as a pretext not to vote for the right to abortion in the constitution, today find themselves somewhat confused when they see that the elected representative of La Manche has joined the action by proposing to include in Section 34 of the Basic Law, following sentence: “The law lays down the conditions under which a woman’s freedom to terminate her pregnancy is exercised. »

Its amendment would have the effect of “preserving the legislature’s ability to change the system of voluntary termination of pregnancy,” but also “prohibiting any possibility of suppressing by law the freedom of women to terminate her pregnancy, as well as any legislative reform that would have the effect that this freedom is seriously violated”, we can read in the justification.

“Without analyzing Philippe Bas’s contribution, I can say that the parliamentary debate is beginning. Of course, this is not the wording we are defending. But between the rejection that we opposed in October and this amendment, something is moving,” notes Laurence Rossignol, Socialist senator, former minister for families, children and women’s rights. .

For good measure, the bill that was rejected in the Senate last fall proposed to include in a new article 66-2 of the constitution: “No one may violate the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy and contraception. The law guarantees any person who requests it , free and effective access to these rights”. The text, which comes to public hearing next week, preserves the same spirit in a shortened version by also including a new article 66-2 of the constitution, according to which “the law guarantees the effectiveness and equal access to the right to abortion”.

“Useless and totally ineffective”, had rebuked Philippe Bas in the half-cycle in the autumn. He had recalled a decision of the Constitutional Council from 2001 which confirmed “that the right to abortion is a result of the freedom of pregnant women on the basis of Articles II and IV of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (in constitutional value)”.

Philippe Bas also believed that the advances adopted since the Veil law, such as “the fourteen-week period, compensation, abolition of the state of emergency, shortening of the reflection period, access for minors to abortion, would not be protected” by wording proposed by the left.

The environmentalist senator, Mélanie Vogel, the first signatory of the text presented in the autumn, denies it. “Our bill was not intended to be aesthetic. But to ensure that all regressive laws on the right to abortion are rendered unconstitutional. With the wording Philippe Bas has proposed, we could go back to the legislation of 74 and therefore go back to the condition of emergency, reimbursement or shortening the deadlines,” she believes on the contrary.

However, Mélanie Vogel notes “that there is movement” within the senatorial right wing. “It shows that the mobilization and questioning of citizens has been used for something”. In a column titled “Abortion: Forty-eight years after the veil bill, the Senate has a deal with history,” 200 signatories on Jan. 15 called on senators “to overcome partisan divisions to prevail over the importance of the issue and their connection to women’s right to to rule over their bodies”.

Philippe Bas isolated in the LR group?

However, the outcome of the vote is uncertain on 1eh February. The previous bill was rejected with 172 votes against and 139 votes in favor. There are 17 swing votes”, calculated the socialist senator, Marie-Pierre de la Gontrie. According to Bruno Retailleau, the head of the LR group in the Senate, known for his conservative positions, we insist on the “personal initiative” of Philippe Bass. “Bruno Retailleau, Hervé Marseille (president of the centrist group) and Gérard Larcher (president of the Senate) remain in line from the start. It is the veil law and nothing but the veil law. We are not turning the constitution into a catalog of rights. Abortion is not threatened in France. It does not belong in the constitution”.

According to our information, Philippe Bas would also have chosen not to table his amendment in committee, where it would have had little chance of being adopted. “Regarding social issues, the tradition in the Senate is respect for the individual’s convictions and the freedom to vote beyond party political divisions. We believe we debate among ourselves and everyone decides with conscience,” said the senator from La Manche.

What will the left do?

A dilemma also arises for elected representatives of left-wing groups. “We do not yet know what to do. Should we change it? If we vote for the version of Philippe Bas, the text will not be voted in accordance and the parliamentary shuttle will continue. If we vote against, it stops there and the text goes in the bin. And the problem is that the bill is being dealt with within the framework of a parliamentary niche, so the debates are time-limited,” confides a socialist senator.

The Senate majority and the left wing of the Senate also agree on one point. They do not want a referendum on the inclusion of abortion in the constitution. However, a constitutional revision initiated by a bill (the Folketing) can only be approved by a referendum. For months, parliamentarians have called on the government to regain control by introducing a bill. It would make it possible to revise the constitution by a 3/5 majority of the votes cast in the National Assembly and the Senate session of Congress, once the text has been voted on by the two chambers in identical terms.

“This is also what we are thinking about, adopting Philippe Bass’s version would force the government to move the rear”, concludes this elected representative.

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