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France marks constitutional guarantee of abortion rights on International Women's Day

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Today is International Women's Day, which is marked in much of the world by celebrations of women's rights.

(APPLAUSE)

FADEL: And in France, people are celebrating the passage earlier this week of a constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights. It's the first nation to put such a guarantee into its constitution. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is at a big International Women's Day celebration in Paris, and she joins us now. Good morning, Eleanor.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So tell me where you are and what's happening.

BEARDSLEY: Well, I'm at downtown Paris, at the Place Vendome. It's a very ornate, beautiful plaza in front of the Ministry of Justice, where there's a big stand set up and probably a thousand people who came out to watch France's constitution being amended to include the right to abortion. And there were so many people out here. And as you said, this coincides with International Women's Day. And the Minister of Justice literally took a Napoleonic-era seal and cranked it down over the document and the wax and amended it. And cheers went up. And there were so many young women out here. And I spoke to 23-year-old student Constance Trevee (ph). And here's what she told me.

CONSTANCE TREVEE: I'm here because I think it's a historical moment for France and for the world and for women. It's a special day for all women in the world today.

FADEL: But even its supporters said abortion rights weren't at risk in France. So why the urge to pass the amendment?

BEARDSLEY: Well, I would say in large part it's the shock of watching abortion rights being chipped away in the U.S. The French were very alarmed by what they've seen over the last two years after Roe v. Wade was struck down, opening the way for states to almost ban abortion in some cases. And it's really in large reaction to that.

FADEL: Opponents to the Abortion Rights Amendment were very much in the minority. I mean, what were their objections?

BEARDSLEY: Right. Very much I mean, there's literally - nobody in the mainstream parties are morally opposed to abortion. A few of the opponents said it was not necessarily because French women have the right to abortion up until 14 weeks, and it's actually paid for by the French health care system. And some opponents said this is just a political stunt for Macron. But, you know, most of the women out here, a lot of the feminists who have been fighting for this right since the '70s, I mean, people had tears in their eyes and the young women were out. And, you know, like we were saying, it's just this right is being chipped away in so many countries, not just the U.S. but also in European countries like Poland.

And so people don't see this as some issue, just as a political stunt. They see it as actually a key, really important thing to do right now. And people were moved out here. There was a lot of men out here, and they sang the women's anthem, written in the '70s by the feminists, and then the - you know, "La Marseillaise" was played. So it was a big celebration. It's a big, symbolic moment for France coming on International Women's Day.

FADEL: That's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley speaking to us from the International Women's Day celebration at the Place Vendome in Paris. Thank you so much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Leila.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

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