in the footsteps of Mélanie Vogel for the “historic day” when Congress included the freedom to abort in the Constitution

The deputies and senators, meeting Monday in Versailles, largely adopted the inclusion in the fundamental law of “the freedom guaranteed to women to have recourse to a voluntary termination of pregnancy”.

“It’s an indescribable feeling that I’ve never experienced. We won!”, exults Mélanie Vogel, Monday March 4, when the results of the vote are announced. The environmentalist senator from French people abroad, one of the first parliamentarians to have campaigned in favor of including the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy in the Constitution, does not hide her emotion after having experienced her first Congress and to be visited for the first time in his life at the Palace of Versailles. For France too, this is a first. The country becomes the only one in the world to explicitly include the freedom to have an abortion in its Constitution. With 780 votes for (72 against), the threshold of three-fifths of the votes cast is well exceeded. “It’s a massive result, a tidal wave.”

After long legal debates and a parliamentary battle lasting several months, the deputies and senators added a major clarification to article 34 of the Constitution: “The law determines the conditions under which the freedom guaranteed to a woman to have recourse to a voluntary termination of pregnancy is exercised.”

Before going to Versailles for this “historic day”Mélanie Vogel begins her morning with a series of interviews, starting with the France Inter morning show. “Our country affirms today that resorting to abortion is not incidental in democracy, but a condition of democratic, free and egalitarian society”she then explains to franceinfo over coffee. “France will send a very strong message to the whole world.”

“Talking to feminists beyond our borders”

At the same time, agitation is in full swing in the South wing of the Palace of Versailles to prepare everything to welcome the country’s 924 parliamentarians (there is currently a vacant seat in the Senate). Everything must be installed, the sound system tested and the sniffer dogs brought into the Congress hall to detect possible explosives. Mélanie Vogel is refining her speech at home with her partner, German MEP Terry Reintke. “It is no longer a question of convincing, we can say that it has been won. It is a question of explaining the meaning of what we are accomplishing with this text and of speaking to feminists beyond our borders”she explains.

“I have a bit of pressure, because it is a speech that is part of History. The challenge is to have political speeches that are international.”

Mélanie Vogel, environmentalist senator

at franceinfo

At 1:15 p.m., the ecologist arrives at the Senate for the planned transport to Versailles. Both senators and deputies board coaches heading to the residence of the kings of France. An impression of summer camp, even if the political groups don’t mix too much. “The atmosphere is joyful, everyone is happy. It must be difficult for those who voted against on Wednesday”estimates Mélanie Vogel from the ecologists’ bus.

On arrival at the Palace of Versailles, each parliamentarian passes in front of the numerous cameras positioned near the Room of the Two Columns and willingly stops to share their impressions. “I don’t want to find myself in the anti-abortion camp”explains LR deputy Philippe Juvin, who will vote on the text. “I am very moved. I think of Simone Veil, Gisèle Halimi, family planning, the suffragettes…”confides the environmentalist MP Sandrine Rousseau, who is also in favor of the evolution of the Constitution. “Many people became aware that this right was not guaranteed, particularly with current events in the United States and Poland…”, adds LFI deputy David Guiraud. But some dissonant voices are speaking out, like centrist Union senator Nadia Sollogoub: “I regret that the debate is misunderstood and summarized as ‘for or against abortion’. For me, this text will change nothing.”

“The culmination of a long fight”

In the bust gallery of the castle, deputies and senators stop in front of the signs indicating their place in the hemicycle. Each parliamentarian sits in alphabetical order. It is therefore possible for a La France insoumise deputy to find himself next to a senator from the National Rally. “I look at who I am next to, because I am suspicious of some”, jokes socialist deputy Jérôme Guedj. For her part, Mélanie Vogel is seated between Senator Louis Vogel (Act) and MP Stéphane Vojetta (Renaissance) at the moment when Yaël Braun-Pivet arrives in the hemicycle. “For the first time in our history, the Congress of Parliament is chaired by a woman”declared the President of the Assembly to the loud applause of the parliamentarians.

“The time has come to speak out (…) for us, for the Nation, for all women, for all girls, in France and in the world.”

Yaël Braun-Pivet

President of the National Assembly and President of the Congress

Then Gabriel Attal goes to the podium. “We have a moral debt to all these women who suffered in their flesh and in their spirit, sometimes to the point of losing their lives.”says the Prime Minister, before greeting “the culmination of a long fight” and an “step that will go down in history”. The head of government, who arrived in Versailles accompanied by Jean Veil, the eldest son of Simone Veil, applauded the former Minister of Health at the origin of the law of January 17, 1975 decriminalizing abortion. “We give a second victory to Simone Veil”he assured.

Far from being unanimous, Gabriel Attal’s speech annoys the left. “Attal, pathetic little thing, makes the role of the rebels and President Mathilde Panot invisible in today’s decision”loses his temper on Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Sandrine Rousseau also regrets the forgetting of the text submitted by her fellow senator Mélanie Vogel, and notes that the Prime Minister “has made the two women who tabled the bills that we are voting on today invisible”. “He mainly cited the elected representatives of the majority, but he would not have lowered himself to recall that it had gone well beyond his camp”breathes Mélanie Vogel.

“And yet, here we are”

After the head of government, each group speaker takes their turn for five minutes to speak on the platform. The testimony of Claude Malhuret, senator of Allier and president of the Les Indépendants group, recounting his experience of “young doctor” faced with infanticide “in a southern country”stay in mind. “I will see the face of this young woman whose life and that of her baby were destroyed when I go to vote.” In front of the numerous foreign journalists who came to attend the Congress, Senator Laurence Rossignol in turn obtained a standing ovation when she pays homage to women “who resist” in the world to Donald Trump, to Javier Milei, to Viktor Orban, to Vladimir Putin or to the mullahs.

A few minutes before her speech, Mélanie Vogel admits to being won over by “emotion and nervousness”. Then, the time has come to clear your throat. “A year and a half ago, when I proposed to my colleagues in the Senate to put to the vote a transpartisan law to constitutionalize the right to abortion, many told me: ‘Yes, but you know, don’t is this not, that it’s impossible?’“, says the senator in front of a slightly more sparse hemicycle than at the start of the session. “Just last week, many thought that this Congress was inaccessible. That conservatism would be stronger. And yet, here we are (…) We [les féministes]we are so strong, and if we don’t give up, in the end, we win.” She does not forget to pay tribute to all the feminists and all those who made this text possible, even citing “the nieces of senators who were able to convince their uncles”. She announces to “anti-choice activists” that they “have definitely lost”before addressing feminists.

“It is a message for all those who experienced the time when the price of choice could be exclusion, prison or death, who experienced the humiliation of clandestinity, the pain of curettage without anesthesia, the hangers and the needles.”

Mélanie Vogel, environmentalist senator

in Congress

After the speeches, the actions. The deputies and senators will submit their ballots in two rooms adjoining the hemicycle. A little before 7 p.m., Yaël Braun-Pivet finally announced the adoption of the reform and the inclusion of abortion in the Constitution. In the hemicycle, a long standing ovation can begin. Activists sing the MLF anthem Stand up womentaken up by a few deputies from Nupes. “Let us rise, slave women / And break our fetters / Stand up, stand up, stand up!” Mélanie Vogel and feminists will now be able to turn to new battles, starting with improving access to abortion throughout the country.

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