IVG: behind the scenes of political victory

It is strange. » When Éric Dupond-Moretti returns to the government benches on Wednesday, the Minister of Justice is surprised to be applauded, from communist senators to centrists. In the Luxembourg Palace, where the right rules, ministers are used to greater distance. This time, his plea to include in the Constitution the “guaranteed freedom of women” to resort to the voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion) appeals to his audience. Bailiffs arrive to bring him some handwritten words. The LR senator, who until then was against the text, just changed: ” Bravo for your speech. I share and will vote yes. “Socialist thanks him” for working at this historic moment “.

What threatens abortion in France

A few minutes later, Gérard Larcher, who has been repeating his opposition to this revision for several weeks, announces a result that largely disassociates him: 267 for, 50 against. Éric Dupond-Moretti said on La Tribune on Sunday that he experienced “ most memorable moment » since his arrival at Place Vendôme four years ago. Describing ” a suspended moment ” during which he was taken ” the vertigo of history »: “OWhen we do politics, it also means changing people’s lives. We have advanced women’s freedom, that’s nothing. »No one at the Élysée or in the government imagined such an overwhelming victory. 72 out of 132 elected LR representatives voted for the text. Group president Bruno Retailleau says he saw “ evaporate twenty votes in a few seconds “.

The senators clearly felt that opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of this reform. The debate goes far beyond the walls of parliament. Even actress Sophie Marceau cut Gérard Larcher on Instagram. The senatorial right may have presented all possible legal arguments, but they have become inaudible and microscopic compared to the power of the symbol. After a while, the senators were faced with a simple question: Which side of history do they want to be on?

Éric Dupond-Moretti made it a personal matter. In recent weeks, the Minister of Justice opened his desk to senators. ” I wanted to reassure them on the points that worried themhe says. This is the least when you want to create a compromise text. » They have two things in common with Gérard Larcher: a love of hunting and a love of good food. They shared it together during a dinner at the Chancellery in early February. The Minister of Justice knows very well that evening that he is not going to convince his guest. But the former bar tenor still wants to demonstrate the balance of the text: ” This is a protection of the veil law and not an extension. »

In January, the Minister of Justice had already received for dinner Bruno Retailleau and Hervé Marseille, key men in the Senate, both of whom were against the text. The Minister of Justice’s demonstration was heard by the chairmen of LR groups and centrist unions. He also asked them: ” How do you perceive the situation? And your group? » He quickly moved on to something else with Bruno Retailleau, knowing full well that the Vendée senator, a conservative Catholic, could not be convinced.

In mid-December, it was the discreet but influential chairman of the Senate Legal Committee, François-Noël Buffet, who received the Minister of Justice. Both men have a mutual friend who is dear to them, André Soulier, a brilliant lawyer from Lyons, with whom they have already dined at the Chancellery. Éric Dupond-Moretti reassures his guests, angry that the government has already set a date for the congress, potentially March 5, as if the vote in the Senate were merely a formality: ” I’ll take my time. » Since then, the Élysée has given instructions that only the Minister of Justice should speak about the revision of the constitution in the media.

Behind this famous result is also a united group of five women who helped the minister behind the scenes to this victory in the Senate: the environmentalist Mélanie Vogel, at the birth of the bill on this topic, the socialists Laurence Rossignol and Marie-Pierre de La Gontrie, the centrist Dominique Vérien, the president delegation for women’s rights, LR Elsa Schalck. Within each political group, they identify whom to convince with which argument. And deliver the latest news to Justice Minister Guillem Gerville’s chief of staff.

A last-minute amendment tabled on Monday at noon by LR Senator Philippe Bas, to drop the term “guarantee” and leave only the term “freedom” to resort to abortion, will shake all the supporters of the text. This wording would require a new review by the National Assembly. And it would jeopardize the future of the law. On Tuesday, Éric Dupond-Moretti will spend an hour and a half in the corridors of the Palais du Luxembourg to convince the elected representatives. The next morning, the internal consultations of the senatorial majority gave the verdict: the text will be largely accepted.

The work of persuading the people paid off much more than the government could have hoped for. The first signal warned the manager of a possible victory. In October 2022, environmental senator Mélanie Vogel’s bill aimed at constitutionalizing abortion was defeated by only a narrow majority. Then, in February 2023, LR Senator Philippe Bas proposed a compromise to Mathilde Panot’s Insoumise text, which also aimed to set abortion in stone. A version of it where we no longer talk about “ women’s rights » resort to abortion, but ” freedom » – much less legally binding – is accepted. This is an important shift that forces the executive to say that there is a way. A month later, on March 8, Emmanuel Macron announced his intention to constitutionalize abortion during a speech paying tribute to Gisèle Halimi. Which was not possible anywhere else in the world.

The ceremonial sealing of the new constitution will take place on March 8 in the chancellery

However, he does not want to hear about the draft constitutional law, because it would necessarily include a referendum. The risk of reviving old fractures in society is too great. To go through the more appeasing path of Congress, it is essential that the President himself submits a constitutional bill. Minister for Families Aurore Bergé, also at the birth of the abortion bill, and Éric Thiers, the president’s institutional adviser, are working on a proposal acceptable to the Senate. The revision of the constitution is submitted to the Council of Ministers in mid-December.

During a meeting at the Élysée around the president, advisers and ministers warn him and support the calculations: ” This reform will not pass. » « It’s dead », says Gérald Darmanin according to comments published by Le Figaro. The ambient defeatism that irritates Éric Dupond-Moretti. But Emmanuel Macron, who is watching all this very closely, is sure of his reality: ” I have full faith in the guard to find a way through. » At the beginning of February, projections showed a positive vote for the first time.

On Wednesday evening, after leaving the Senate, the Minister of Justice returned to the Place Vendôme. He makes sure that the sealing press, this huge machine that sits in his office, is working well. It was last used in Nicolas Sarkozy’s revision of the constitution in 2008. Tomorrow, parliament will meet at the Congress of Versailles to vote on the revision of the constitution. If it is accepted – there is no doubt about it – there will be a ceremony in the Chancellery in the presence of Emmanuel Macron to seal the new constitution. It will take place on March 8, International Women’s Day. The scenario is perfect to allow the president to restore his much-needed feminist image. The government adviser cannot believe such an arrangement of the planets: “ For once the ideal matches the real. »

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