French bishops call for fasting and prayer as France enshrines abortion in constitution

The French Bishops' Conference on Monday issued a call for fasting and prayer as the French government moved to enshrine abortion rights in the country's constitution.

The French National Assembly in January voted tointroduce a "right to abortion" in the French Constitution, moving to make official a "liberté garantie" -- a "guaranteed freedom" -- to abort an unborn child. The French Senate last weekapproved the amendmentby an overwhelming majority.

A full parliamentarian vote on Monday, meanwhile, easily cleared the necessary constitutional threshold and made the measure official. Abortion has been statutorily legal in France since 1975.

"As Catholics, we must continue to serve life from conception to death, to be artisans of respect for every human being, which is always a gift given to all others, and to support those who choose to keep their child even in difficult circumstances," the French Bishops' Conference (CEF) said in a statement on Monday.

The prelates stressed the importance of "support[ing] those who choose to keep their child even in difficult situations" and "surround[ing] those who have resorted to abortion with our respect and compassion."

"Let us pray that our fellow citizens will rediscover the taste for life, for giving it, for receiving it, for accompanying it, for having and raising children," the bishops concluded.

The bishops said that France "would have honored itself by instead including the promotion of the rights of women and children" in its constitution.

"Of all European countries, even Western Europe, France is the only one where the number of abortions has not decreased and has even increased in the last two years," the statement said.

The bishops "gladly relay the call made by several Catholic movements to fast and prayer" in response to the measure, they wrote.

Following the French Senate's passage of the measure last week, the bishops hadsaid in a statementthat abortion "remains an affront to life in its beginnings" and that "it cannot be seen solely from the perspective of women's rights."

"The bishops' conference will be vigilant with respect to the freedom of choice of parents who decide, even in difficult situations, to keep their child and the freedom of conscience of doctors and all health care personnel, whose courage and commitment it commends," the prelates said at the time.