Biden and France Now Promote Abortion as a Positive Good

COMMENTARY: Regrettably, abortion is now considered something to be celebrated, both by the Catholic president and in Paris.

'Hashtag My Body My Choose' in big letters projected on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower when it is lighted up. The City of Paris organizes with the Fondation des Femmes a giant screen broadcast of the Congressional vote to enshrine IVG Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy in the French Constitution.
'Hashtag My Body My Choose' in big letters projected on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower when it is lighted up. The City of Paris organizes with the Fondation des Femmes a giant screen broadcast of the Congressional vote to enshrine IVG Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy in the French Constitution. (photo: Kin-Wai Yuen / Sipa/AP)

Two developments this week, on both sides of the Atlantic, mark a growing movement to celebrate abortion as a positive good.

The Clinton-era slogan of abortion as “safe, legal and rare” has been discarded. Abortion has become something to be celebrated this week in both Washington and Paris.

Tonight, at his State of the Union address to Congress, President Joe Biden has invited Kate Cox to sit with First Lady Jill Biden in the balcony. Cox sued in Texas to abort her unborn child, diagnosed with Trisomy 18. While she lost the case, she traveled out of state to obtain the abortion. She will be lauded by Biden as a hero in the balcony.

The practice of recognizing “heroes in the balcony” began with President Ronald Reagan in his 1982 State of the Union address. He invited Lenny Skutnik, who had jumped into a frigid Potomac River to rescue a woman from a plane crash, to sit with Nancy Reagan. Skutnik exemplified the “spirit of American heroism at its finest” in Reagan’s words. Then that heroic spirit saved life. Now it includes eugenic abortion.

Earlier this week, the French Parliament enshrined the “guaranteed freedom” to have an abortion in its constitution — the first country to explicitly include abortion as a constitutional right. That, too, was a marker of abortion being considered a positive good, like freedom of speech or the right to vote.

The French case is a direct response to the 2022 Dobbs decision, even though an American court decision has no authority in France. Nevertheless, the French decision to amend its constitution was intended to manifest opposition to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

It bears mention that in 2022, after much debate, France changed its abortion law to permit abortion on demand up to 14 weeks, from the previous 12 weeks. The Mississippi law that was upheld in Dobbs in 2022 was more liberal, at 15 weeks, than the law in France. At the time Dobbs was decided, it was more difficult to get an abortion in France than in Mississippi.

Indeed, for the nearly 50 years that Roe was in force, the United States had the most extreme abortion license of almost any country, certainly of any democracy. While many European countries had gestational limits, and Canada had no abortion law at all, the prevailing law in the United States was that the Constitution guaranteed the right to an abortion. That was highly contested, but remained the holding of Roe. That made the U.S. the only country whose constitution guaranteed abortion rights, even if it was by judicial decision and not constitutional amendment.

Since 2022, the U.S. Constitution is no longer read to include a right to an abortion. States are thus free to regulate abortion, or even include it in their state constitutions.

France has moved in the opposite direction. With the amendment passed this week, France’s Constitution now includes abortion as a “guaranteed freedom,” passed by an overwhelming vote in Parliament, not by judicial fiat. The vote reflected a wide political consensus in France. After the vote, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated in celebration, emblazoned with the bilingual slogans “Mon Corps, Mon Choix” and “My Body, My Choice.”

That echoed the decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York in 2019. After passing a state law that permitted abortion on demand throughout pregnancy, Cuomo ordered that the spire on One World Trade Center, as well as the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, the Kosciuszko Bridge, and the Alfred E. Smith Building in Albany be lit up in pink to “celebrate this achievement and shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow.” The Empire State Building, which is privately owned, also followed suit.

The abortion movement, which began by campaigning against relegating abortions to “back alleys” and the darker corners of medicine, has now come boldly into the light, illuminating the most prominent buildings in the world.

For President Biden, the decision to include abortion in the spirit of American heroism is a departure from his earlier reluctance to embrace abortion rhetorically. He rarely used the word early in his presidency, and in his 2022 State of the Union passed over the matter in a brief sentence. Since Dobbs however, the Catholic president has ramped up both rhetoric and policy, and now will make a dramatic gesture during the final State of the Union of this term.

Since Dobbs, American voters in several states have either liberalized abortion laws or rejected abortion restrictions. More abortion measures will be on the ballot this fall.

The impact in Europe of France’s decision remains to be seen. Abortion has mostly been dealt with legislatively in Europe, and not as a matter of constitutional law. That may now change.

Before Dobbs, abortion was a constitutional right in the U.S., but not widely embraced as a good. Indeed, it was widely considered regrettable, hence the Clinton formula that it should be “rare.” It is no longer a right in the U.S., but is increasingly considered a good — and perhaps more than that overseas.

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