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Abortion is constitutive of the nation?

France becomes the first nation to put abortion rights into its constitution

Both houses of France’s Parliament meet at the Palace of Versailles on March 4 to vote on making abortion a constitutional right. Associated Press/Photo by Thomas Padilla

Abortion is constitutive of the nation?

In France, abortion is now a constitutional right. On Monday, France became the first nation to enshrine abortion rights in its constitution. Both chambers of the French Parliament passed the measure with overwhelming majorities, and they were supported by French President Emmanuel Macron and the nation’s new prime minister, Gabriel Attal. This development is largely a publicity stunt by the nation’s elected leaders, but we must also recognize that the move represents a major milestone victory for the Culture of Death.

Let’s be clear. Abortion has been legal in France since 1975, when the nation’s Parliament approved legislation that legalized abortion up until 14 weeks of pregnancy. Today, there is no major party in French politics that opposes abortion rights. No major pro-life initiative loomed on the horizon. Marine Le Pen, deputy of the French National Assembly and leader of the nation’s most significant conservative party, called the constitutional amendment a “publicity stunt” undertaken by Macron and his allies. “It serves no purpose, because no political movement is questioning abortion,” she said, adding that Macron had called for the amendment “for his own glory.” Sadly, she made her point clear by voting for the measure.

Again: There is no threat to abortion rights in France. There is no organized and powerful political movement to restrict or eliminate abortion in the nation. No court has threatened to limit abortion. Nevertheless, the French move is morally significant. By moving abortion rights into the nation’s constitution, the French have declared abortion rights to be constitutive of the French nation. Just think about that.

France has indeed become the first nation to insert abortion rights into its constitution. Doing so means that France has declared that abortion rights are now fundamental to the nation’s constitution. That is exactly what pro-abortion forces want to do in the United States. They want to see the U.S. Constitution amended to include an explicit guarantee of abortion rights for women. Of course, given the agenda of the leftist progressives now in the driver’s seat in the Democratic Party, there will probably be no legal reference to women in any such proposed amendment here—only references to “pregnant people.” The French may be liberal, but they are more clear-minded on gender issues than the American left.

The actual language adopted in the French revision refers to abortion as a “guaranteed freedom.” Frankly, that is a somewhat ambiguous term in the French system. There was debate about whether abortion should be protected as a “right” or a “freedom.” The “guaranteed freedom” language was a compromise, but the point was made clearly.

This latest development underlines the radical nature of the French Revolution as compared to the American Revolution.

Historians may be less impressed with the action. France’s current constitution has been in place only since 1958. Since then, it has been amended 24 times. The Constitution of France can be amended by a supermajority of the nation’s central government, acting alone. The same is not true of the U.S. Constitution, which has been amended only 27 times since the 1780s. In the United States, Congress and the president alone cannot amend the Constitution, and the states must be involved and must overwhelmingly approve. Thus, prospects for amending the U.S. Constitution in order to enshrine abortion rights are extremely low, which infuriates pro-abortion leaders and will now make them even more envious of secularized, liberalized, rights-inventing France.

Except for one thing. There is an awful lot of smoke and mirrors in the American media coverage and political grandstanding on the left. Abortion rights in France end with the 14th week of pregnancy. The new constitutional amendment does not change that at all. In truth, many blue states in the United States now have abortion laws or policies that are vastly more liberal than France. Pro-abortion activists in states like Illinois, California, and New York are cheering the French constitutional action and fawning over French politicians, but the laws in their own states are considerably more liberal than the law in France.

Christians must realize that the move in France can only be explained by the nation’s radical secularization and the eclipse of the biblical worldview. We must also recognize that this latest development underlines the radical nature of the French Revolution as compared to the American Revolution. The French project is based upon the assertion that society grants rights. The American project is vastly different, acknowledging (at least historically) that government respects rights that belong to citizens because those rights are “endowed by their Creator.”

After the French government’s action, undertaken at Versailles, no less, Macron declared that Friday will be the occasion for a “sealing ceremony.” Such ceremonies are rare and are designated only for especially important legislation. That underlines the fact that the French constitutional amendment was indeed a publicity stunt. But publicity stunts reveal a lot about a nation. The Washington Post reported that, in celebration of the action at Versailles, “a topless woman danced through the crowd with the words, ‘Blessings, abortion is finally in the constitution,’ painted across her bare torso.”

The revolution in France marches on.

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College and editor of WORLD Opinions. He is also the host of The Briefing and Thinking in Public. He is the author of several books, including The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. He is the seminary’s Centennial Professor of Christian Thought and a minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches.

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