Global Doctors Group Protests French Ban on Pro-Life Websites

French Parliament, Paris, France

                         French Parliament, Paris, France

Global outrage is growing against a law passed last week by the French parliament which penalizes pro-life websites that aim to dissuade women from abortion with an international group of doctors becoming the latest to protest the draconian law.

The World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC) issued a statement denouncing the passage of the “Digital Interference Bill”, a law that criminalizes websites that “deliberately mislead, intimidate and/or exert psychological or moral pressure to discourage recourse to abortion.” Convicted website owners could face up to two years in jail or a 30,000 euro fine ($31,799 USD).

Calling the law a “legal violation of democracy and fundamental human rights,” the FIAMC “protests this immoral law and its future consequences, and denounces the abuse it constitutes. Such a law contradicts the universal moral law and cannot be obeyed in conscience,” the statement said.

Even if this law is limited to France, and is only an extension of previous legislation, it still constitutes a clear violation of the freedom of expression and cannot be approved, the FIAMC said. This is especially true coming from a country which prides herself on being tolerant, broad-minded, and always fighting in the defense of human rights.

“In this instance, it would appear that the French government interprets ‘human rights’ as a kind of a privilege to be enjoyed only by women seeking a medical procedure that, from a health standpoint, is not in their or their unborn child’s best interest.”

In response to the criticism, Laurence Rossingol, the French minister for women’s rights, insisted that the law only targets pro-life organizations that imitate state websites and said pro-life activists are free to express themselves “under the condition they sincerely say who they are, what they do, and what they want.”

Marisol Touraine, the French minister of health and social affairs, said the law is aimed at “preventing these websites from disseminating disinformation” and denounced the “cultural climate that tends to make women feel guilty when they consider” abortion.

This hardly appeased the Catholic Church in France. In a letter to President Francois Hollande in November of 2016, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris criticized the current French government for its obsession with abortion and urged him against allowing the measure to be passed.

According to CNA, Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the French bishops’ conference, also wrote to Hollande to register the Church’s concern saying the proposal “calls into question the foundations of our liberties and most particularly the freedom of expression … Can the slightest encouragement to keep one’s child be described as ‘psychological and moral pressure’?”

The manner in which the law limits free expression impacts freedom of conscience, the bishop said, and “seems to me to be a very serious attack on the principles of democracy.”

However, their concerns were dismissed by French lawmakers in the lower house of parliament, which is dominated by the Socialist Party, who passed the bill on February 16. The Republicans, who dominate the French Senate, opposed the law and have already said they will challenge the law in court.

The unjust law also brought more than 50,000 pro-life supporters into the streets of Paris on January 22 to protest the bill.

The FIAMC vows to continue fighting the law.

“Such a law contradicts the universal moral law and cannot be obeyed in conscience. It is hoped that a future French government will abolish it quickly in order to restore the now tarnished image of this great democratic nation.”

The upcoming elections could indeed determine the fate of the ill-begotten law. Francois Fillon, a Catholic, stated in the last primary debate that he personally opposes abortion but that in the last 30 years, has voted for every law that has given women access to abortion.

Marine LePen, another contender in the race for the presidency, is president of the National Front party which is considered to be “extreme” in its opposition to abortion.

Emmanuel Macron, a banker who is running as an independent, has never been elected to public office and is considered to be liberal on social issues.

The election will be held on April 23. If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff will be held on May 7.

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