France has inscribed the guaranteed right to abortion in its constitution, a powerful message of support for women’s rights on International Women’s Day.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti used a 19th-century printing press to seal the amendment in France’s constitution at a special public ceremony.

Applause filled the cobblestoned Place Vendome as France became the first country to explicitly guarantee abortion rights in its national charter.

The measure was overwhelmingly approved by French lawmakers earlier this week, and Friday’s ceremony means it can now enter into force.

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The ‘seal of the abortion right article 34’ into the constitution at the Palace of Versailles on Monday (Emmanuel Dunand/Pool Photo via AP)

While abortion is a deeply divisive issue in the United States, it is legal in nearly all of Europe and overwhelmingly supported in France, where it is seen more as a question of public health rather than politics.

French legislators approved the constitutional amendment on Monday in a 780-72 vote that was backed by many far-right lawmakers.

Friday’s ceremony in Paris was a key event on a day focused on advancing women’s rights globally. Marches, protests and conferences are being held from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Mexico City and beyond.

The French constitutional amendment has been hailed by women’s rights advocates around the world, including places where women struggle to access birth control or maternal healthcare.

French President Emmanuel Macron called it a direct result of the US Supreme Court ruling in 2022 rescinding long-held abortion rights.

Mr Macron’s critics questioned why he pursued the measure in a country with no obvious threat to abortion rights but where women face a multitude of other problems.

While some French women saw the step as a major win, others said that in reality not every French woman has access to abortion.

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French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a ceremony to seal the right to abortion in the French constitution (Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool Photo via AP)

“It’s a smokescreen,” Arya Meroni, 32, said of the event.

“The government is destroying our healthcare system, many family planning clinics have closed,” she said at an annual “Feminist Night March” in Paris on the eve of International Women’s Day.

France has a persistently high rate of women killed by their partners and challenges remain in prosecuting sexual abuse against women by powerful celebrities and other men. French women also see lower pay and pensions — especially women who are not white.

Mr Macron’s government said the abortion amendment was important to avoid a US-like scenario for women in France, as hard-right groups are gaining ground and seeking to turn back the clock on freedoms around Europe.

Mr Macron presided over the constitutional ceremony. Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti used a 100-kilogram press from 1810 to imprint the amendment in France’s 1958 constitution.

It will include the phrase, “the freedom of women to have recourse to an abortion, which is guaranteed”.

France follows in the footsteps of the former Yugoslavia, whose 1974 constitution included the phrase: “A person is free to decide on having children.” Yugoslavia’s successor states retained similar language in their constitutions, though they did not spell out guaranteed abortion rights.