Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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French Assembly approves more liberal embryo law

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits
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February 16, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The French National Assembly voted in favor of a revised bioethics bill on Tuesday that will allow for more widespread embryo research. The bill will now go before French Senate. If the higher chamber alters the text it will come back before the Assembly for a second reading.

Many points of the new law aim to liberalize embryo research. The first ever French bioethics law in 1994 prohibited embryo research of any kind. A revision in 2001 prohibited embryonic research in principle but allowed exceptions for “therapeutic” research purposes during a moratorium of five years.

During that time those seeking exceptions were forced to apply to the Agence de Biomédecine, which is in favor of embryonic research. The moratorium came to an end only a few days before the revised law was examined by the French Assembly, last week, and many scientists were pressing for an end to the ban.

However, while the ban would be maintained in the new law, exemptions will be easier to obtain. It would allow embryonic research in view of “medical progress,” including diagnosis and drug testing, a concession to the pharmaceutical industry.

On the other hand the text allows for conscientious objection for all medical workers who do not wish to participate in this research, and favors “ethical” alternative research whenever possible.

Most socialist and many communist representatives, as well as the Greens, voted against the text on the grounds that it was not liberal enough. The Greens had been pushing for the legalization of surrogate motherhood and for access to artificial procreation for singles and homosexuals, both of which were voted down.

Socialist representative Alain Claeys, who heads the Parliamentary bioethics commission, deplored the maintaining of the general ban: he said embryonic stem cell research is “useful for fundamental research.” He added that last time round, President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime minister François Fillon both voted for a general authorization of embryonic research.

However, MPF representatives Véronique Besse and Dominique Souchet said France was losing an historic opportunity to close the five-year moratorium with a complete ban on embryonic research: “We all know now that research can make progress in other ways … Only ideological factors and financial interests that have nothing to do with the needs of science can have inspired the upholding and widening of this type of experimentation.”

Last Friday the pro-life group Alliance pour les droits de la vie organized a demonstration near the French Assembly in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote. A group of about 50 people, including pregnant women, heavily handicapped men and women and parents of children with genetic diseases stood under a banner proclaiming: “All genetically incorrect.” Some had their heads hidden behind white paper lampshades to symbolize nameless embryos who are being killed because they are not considered up to standard.

A young woman, Claire, whose parents chose not to abort her although she was diagnosed with spina bifida was present. She told LifeSiteNews.com she wanted to thank her parents for the gift of life. “I have more joy in life than many so-called normal people,” she said. “I’m here because I can speak, I want to be the voice of those who have no voice.”

Pro-life organizations say they are disappointed with the law, but underline that their efforts have brought themes to the fore that weren’t even talked about in the mainstream media during the debates preceding the 1994 and 2001 laws: eugenics, the interest of the child, alternative ethical research. They intend to redouble their efforts during the weeks leading up to examination of the law by the Senate.

In addition to the provisions on embryo research, the new law would give access to artificial procreation to unwed couples, who will no longer need to prove they have been living together for two years at least. The text also favors “zero defect” babies by obliging doctors to offer prenatal screening to “all” pregnant women when their medical condition or the state of the fetus “are susceptible of modifying the progress of the pregnancy.”

However, thanks to the efforts of pro-lifers, the law will also oblige doctors to give pregnant women information on existing therapy for the illness or handicap of their unborn child, and give them addresses of parent support groups. A new seven-day reflection period before deciding on a “medical” abortion in these cases will also be made compulsory.

Pre-implantation diagnosis, including double screening for “savior siblings,” will continue to be permitted within limited conditions.

The new law also favors research on umbilical cord blood, as well as storage and usage of umbilical stem cells in the interest of the general public. It maintains anonymous and free donorship of sperm and ovocytes and favors the reduction of the number of embryos created within in vitro fertilization procedures.

The new text also heavily favors vital organ donation, despite growing concern in some circles about the criteria of brain death that allow organ harvesting on people whose heart is still beating: significantly, there was no debate at all on this point, either in the media or at the National Assembly. Campaigns for organ donation will be held in high schools, higher education schools, the army and in the mainstream media on a yearly basis to encourage all types of human donation: vital organs, blood, sperm and ovules.

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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