Pro-Choice and Anti-Abortion Movements Continue to be a Divisive Issue Globally 

Yesterday France made a historic decision and put into law the constitutional right for all women of the country to have an abortion. Abortion has been legal in France since 1975. The pro-life movement, centred around the French Catholic Church, has sought to challenge the law. By adding the right to an abortion to the constitution, France may have pulled the rug from beneath the anti-abortionists whilst protecting the rights of women and girls.

The Vatican has even weighed in on the decision stating that“there can be no ‘right’ to take a human life.” If this influenced the decision of the French Parliament in joint session at Versailles at all, it did not sway them enough, as the motion passed 780 – 72. President Emmanuel Macron, who has been facing a great deal of criticism for his handling of the current farmers’ strike, must surely be aware of how the historic decision made under his term will surely be a boon in the upcoming election (85% of French people feel strongly that abortion laws should be protected). 

Abortion, much like the subject of Ukraine or Palestine, is a hot button topic – more so since the United States Supreme Court repealed Roe v Wade, which in turn caused France to enshrine the right to abortion into their constitution. The decision made by the US Supreme Court has had a global reaction, the largest lately in France, but could have inspired other movements to extend abortion rights in countries like Mexico

It has also provoked a reaction from anti-abortionists. The Manchester Pro-Life Society (MPLS), at Manchester University is made up of at least 23 members, who posted a group photo to Instagram. The majority of the members were male. According to the description posted on their student union page, they describe themselves as aiming to ‘create a Pro-Life culture on campus and support the dignity of every human life from conception’.

The group was met with large protests, with so many coming out to demonstrate their anger at the group’s formation that police had to escort the members to and from their meeting. Speaking to the Catholic Herald, members of the group expressed their “terror” and feelings that “their lives were in danger”. 

The treasurer for the MPLS said this; 

“If it wasn’t for the police and security, people would have definitely been physically hurt. It made me feel intimidated and threatened. I was genuinely afraid that we would get hurt physically.”

He did not understand that this experience could at all be related to how women, in particular women who are harassed outside abortion clinics, may feel. Though that would require a modicum of intelligence and introspection. 

Since the MPLS’s formation, over fifteen thousand students have signed a petition to remove the MPLS as it has made female students feel threatened. A second year student at the university spoke to the Independent about how the MPLS creates an atmosphere of terror for female students;

“It’s blatant misogyny, control and subjugation of women hidden behind a smoke screen disguised as a political opinion or stance point.”

Will the UK follow suit? Whilst abortion remains legal in the UK, Sunak has abstained on numerous votes regarding the issue whilst also supporting pro-life movements in Northern Ireland. It is unlikely that Starmer, who has been known to sit on the fence for sex and gender related issues, would be any better. 

Whilst we praise France for its actions in combating the misogyny of pro-life movements, the Centre for Reproductive Rights shows that far too many countries have failed to protect women and give them the right to bodily autonomy that they deserve. 

I recall when Roe vs. Wade was overturned, at the same time at Glastonbury Festival singer Olivia Rodrigo spoke to the masses assembled and uttered two haunting lines about the Supreme Court’s decision, “I’m devastated and terrified. So many women and girls are going to die because of this.” 

It is a true irony of all pro-life movements that they are not that at all, and while they fight for a clump of cells they never once care to think of the women whose bodies they occupy. 

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