France yesterday enshrined the right to abortion in its constitution, a world first welcomed by women's rights groups as historic and harshly criticized by anti-abortion groups.

Reuters reports that MPs and senators overwhelmingly backed the move, by 780 votes against 72, in a special joint vote of the two houses of parliament.

The politicians reportedly delivered impassioned speeches about women’s rights around the world, paid homage to the courageous Frenchwomen who had fought for abortion rights when it was illegal and leaped up time and again to offer standing ovations.

“We are sending the message to all women: Your body belongs to you and no one has the right to control it in your stead,” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said before the gathered lawmakers voted 780-72 for the amendment.

The amendment declares abortion to be a “guaranteed freedom,” overseen by Parliament’s laws.  That means future governments will not be able to “drastically modify” the current laws funding abortion for women who seek it, up to 14 weeks into their pregnancies, according to the French justice minister, Éric Dupond-Moretti.

The New York Times says the impulse for the latest change was the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022, an issue raised repeatedly by legislators.  But the move also reflects the widespread support for abortion in France, and a successful campaign by a coalition of feminist activists and lawmakers from multiple parties.

“France is showing the right to abortion is no longer an option, it’s a condition of our democracy,” said Mélanie Vogel, a Green Party senator who has been a major force behind the bill. “The French Republic will no longer remain democratic without the right to abortion.”

Abortion rights are more widely accepted in France than in many other countries, with polls showing around 80% of French people back the fact that abortion is legal.

According to Reuters, abortion rights activists gathered in central Paris cheered and applauded as the Eiffel Tower scintillated in the background and displayed the message "MyBodyMyChoice" as the result of the vote was announced on a giant screen.

The anti-abortion groups harshly criticized the decision to make abortion a constitutional right.

The Voice of America (VOA) says Pascale Moriniere, the president of the Association of Catholic Families, called the move a defeat for anti-abortion campaigners.

"It's [also] a defeat for women," she said, "and, of course, for all the children who cannot see the day."

Moriniere said there was no need to add the right to abortion to the constitution.

Amending the Constitution is not without precedent in France; the current Constitution has been modified over 20 times since it was adopted in 1958.  But it is rare.  Lawmakers last amended the Constitution in 2008.