On International Women’s Day, France will seal the right to abortion in its constitution

PARIS (AP) — France on Friday included the guaranteed right to abortion in its constitution, a strong message of support for women’s rights to international Women’s Day.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti used a 19th-century printing press to seal the amendment to the French Constitution in a special public ceremony. Applause filled the cobbled Place Vendome as France became the first country to do so explicitly guarantee abortion rights in its national charter.

The measure was overwhelmingly approved by French lawmakers earlier this week, and Friday’s ceremony means it can now come into effect.

Although abortion is a deeply divisive issue in the United States, it is legal almost all of Europe and was overwhelmingly supported in France, where it is seen more as a matter of public health than a matter of politics. French lawmakers approved the constitutional change on Monday by a vote of 780 to 72, which was supported by many far-right lawmakers.

Friday’s ceremony in Paris was a major event on a day aimed at advancing women’s rights worldwide. Marches, protests and conferences are being held from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Mexico City and beyond.

The French constitutional change has been praised by women’s rights advocates around the world, including in places where women struggle to access contraception or maternal health care. French President Emmanuel Macron called it a direct consequence of the 2022 U.S. Supreme Court ruling repealing long-standing abortion rights.

Macron called on other countries to follow suit and proposed including the right to abortion in the European Union’s charter, sparking cheers from the crowd in Paris. However, such a move would likely face strong opposition from EU members that have strict abortion restrictions, such as Poland.

Macron’s critics questioned why he was pushing the measure in a country where there is no clear threat to abortion rights but where women face a host of other problems.

While some French women saw the move as a major victory, others said that in reality not every French woman has access to abortion.

“It’s a smokescreen,” Arya Meroni, 32, said of the event.

“The government is destroying our healthcare system, many family planning clinics are closed,” she said during the annual “Feminist Night March” in Paris on the eve of International Women’s Day.

France has a persistently high percentage women murdered by their partners and problems remain in prosecution sexual abuse against women by powerful celebrities and other men. French women also see lower wages and pensions – especially women who are not white.

Macron’s government said the abortion amendment was important to prevent an American scenario for women in France as far-right groups gain ground and try to turn back the clock on freedoms across Europe.

Macron will preside over the constitutional ceremony. Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti will use a 100-kilogram press from 1810 to print the amendment to the 1958 French Constitution.

It will include the phrase: “the freedom of women to resort to abortion, which is guaranteed.” The ceremony will be held outdoors with an invited audience, another first.

France is following in the footsteps of the former Yugoslavia, whose 1974 constitution included the phrase: “A person is free to decide whether to have children.” Yugoslavia’s successor states retained similar language in their constitutions, although they did not provide for guaranteed abortion rights.

Not everyone saw the day as a cause for celebration, as angry protest marches were held in many countries.

The head of the Danish Trade Union Confederation, which has 1.3 million members, is annoyed by the way women and men are treated differently in some areas.

“Unfortunately, we still see sky-high pay gaps, professions dominated by one gender, a sex-segregated labor market, cases of harassment that mainly affect women and a wide range of other equality issues,” said Morten Skov Christensen.

In other events Friday:

In Irelandvoters will decide whether to amend the constitution to remove passages referring to women’s domestic responsibilities and broaden the definition of the family.

In Italy, where the country’s first female prime minister is in power, thousands of people marched in Rome to protest gender-based violence. The issue attracted public attention after the particularly gruesome murder of a young woman and following data showing that more than half of the 120 women murdered in Italy last year were killed by their current or former partners.

At street rallies in Seoul, participants looked ahead to next month’s parliamentary elections in South Korea and expressed hope that the parties would prioritize gender equality.

In Russia, where the United Nations says human rights have deteriorated Since the military’s massive invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has greeted Russian women who fought in the war and those waiting at home for their deployed loved ones.

Protesters in Istanbul want to draw attention to this violence against womenand gatherings are expected in many cities. Turkey’s protests are often political and sometimes violent, and have their roots in women’s efforts to do just that improve their rights as workers. This year’s global theme is ‘Inspire Inclusion’.

Indonesian protesters demanded the adoption of the International Labor Organization’s conventions on gender equality and the elimination of violence and harassment in the workplace. Labor rights groups in Thailand marched on Government House to call for better working conditions, and activists marching against violence in the Philippine capital were stopped by police near the presidential palace, leading to a brief scuffle.

The Indian government reduced the price of cooking gas cylinders by 100 rupees ($1.20), with Prime Minister Narendra Modi posting on social media that the move was “in line with our commitment to empowering women.”

The United Nations children’s agency said in a report published on International Women’s Day that more than 230 million women and girls around the world have undergone female genital mutilation. The number has increased by 30 million in the past eight years, the report said.

“We are also seeing a worrying trend of more girls being subjected to this practice at a younger age, many before their fifth birthday. That further reduces the time to action,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF Executive Director.

International Women’s Day, officially recognized by the United Nations in 1977, is a national holiday in about 20 countries, including Russia, Ukraine and Afghanistan.

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Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.

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