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France, pro-life Associations: “we shall not silenced by censorship”

Yesterday the National Assembly adopted a draft law presented by the Socialist Party and by the Minister for the Family Laurence Rossignol that outlaws French websites “that oppose voluntary pregnancy interruption” designed to provide an area for counsel to women. As of today those same websites risk being incriminated on charges of misinformation. The stand of the bishops of France was followed by the reactions of Catholic associations. AllianceVita: "We shall not be silenced by censorship.”

The heated debate began at 9:00 a.m. Finally, yesterday evening the French National Assembly adopted, in first reading, the draft law extending the criminalisation of “obstruction to voluntary interruption” to French websites (many of which are promoted by Catholic pro-life movements) designed to provide support to women seeking counsel. The most renowned and popular among them are ivg.net and www.sosbebe.org. As of today they risk being charged with “dissimulation”, namely, the bill states, “to deliberately mislead, intimidate or exert psychological or moral pressure on a woman seeking information about terminating a pregnancy.” The Socialist Government presented the proposal on the initiative of the Minister for Families Laurence Rossignol and it allows for prosecution against websites on charges of obstructing IVG, with punishment of up to two years in prison and a €30,000 fine.

The plenary debate took place against the backdrop of a Country in full pre-electoral campaign for the 2017 presidential elections. This present atmosphere unquestionably contributed to the heated discussion marked by the left-wing view whereby the bill is a tool “to step up women’s right to abortion”, confronted by right-winged MPs who guarded against “attacking freedom of opinion”
76 amendments to the text were presented, most of which from right-wing MPs in the name of “freedom of expression”, but the draft-law – voted by raise of hands – was adopted also with the support of the “centrist coalition.” It will be examined by the Senate on December 7, under expedited procedure, ahead of the definitive vote at the end of February. Tugdual Derville , General Secretary of AllianceVita, an association which, inter alia, runs one of the websites “incriminated” by the draft-law, www.sosbebe.org promptly reacted to the news. Every year the website registers 900 thousand visitors and publishes useful information for women, along with a toll-free number providing counsel by some fifty volunteer-workers. “We will not be silenced by censorship – Derville said –. We will continue helping women, informing them and countering official misinformation.”

Caroline Roux, coordinator of the counsel services, accused the “government’s official website” (www.ivg.gouv.fr) of failing to mention all the counselling services for women available and of quoting a “purported expert” who says that an abortion does not cause long-term psychological problems. “This opinion controverts our experience and that of a large number of women.”

Also Catholic Families Associations voiced their dissent against a “draft-law” they deem to be “ideologically-motivated” which – they added – “silences freedom of opinion, posing a serious threat to women’s freedom of conscience.” For Family associations the existence and the success of the newly-incriminated websites “are evidence of the fact that official pro-abortion propaganda doesn’t correspond to the needs of women.” In fact, in many cases the Internet in a primary source of information on health-related issues, notably among the young.
As many as 220 thousand abortions are done in France every year.This figure raises major concerns in terms of public health and as such – claim family associations – it should be addressed by countering and preventing related risk-factors. According to an IFOP survey commissioned by AllianceVita, 52% of French citizens believe that the rate of abortions in France “is not normal” but of “great concern”, while 72% agree that society should help women avoid resorting to voluntary pregnancy interruption.
The problem, Monsignor Christophe Dufuour, archbishop of Aix-en-Provence et Arles, underlined in a release – is that from now on it will be considered “unlawful to say it” and it will “be also forbidden to say that 90% of women believe that the act of putting an end to the life of a human being has a serious psychological impact on the mother.” The issue was equally addressed a few days ago by the President of French Bishops Monsignor Georges Pontier, who voiced his “grave concern” over the draft-law in a letter to French President François Hollande.

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