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FRANCE, October 12, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – A law aiming to extend the period of legal abortion without conditions in France was adopted on Thursday by the National Assembly by 86 votes against 73 during a sparsely attended session in which only 152 deputies out of 577 bothered to vote. 

If the draft text becomes law,  abortion will become fully legal up to 14 weeks of gestation, midwives will be allowed to perform abortions – including surgical ones – up to 10 weeks gestation, and the special conscience clause covering doctors, nurses, midwives and other health personnel will be scrapped in favor of the general conscience clause of medical doctors.

The law was presented by a dissident group of the ruling “République en marche” (LREM) party, EDS (“Ecologie, Démocratie, Solidarité) formed last May by the left wing of the presidential party, making it lose its absolute majority in the lower chamber of the French Parliament. While the balance of power within the National Assembly has not really changed because LREM can count on the support of other groups, EDS in its turn was able to mobilize  the votes of 48 LREM members out of the 58 present (on a total of 270) in order to obtain the adoption of its extremist abortion law. Extreme left-wing party members as well as two members of the opposition “Les Républicains” party also supported the law.

The text must now move on to the “Républicains” dominated Senate where it will probably be heavily amended, before moving back to the Assembly for a second reading.

In the meantime, French health Minister Olivier Véran has asked the National Advisory Ethics Committee to assess the law’s dispositions, stating on Thursday morning that it was a bad idea to rush such a serious issue through Parliament in a half day session without proper preparation and debate.

This does not mean, however, that the ruling LREM party, the French government or the French president have qualms about legal abortion. Earlier this month, Emmanuel Macron commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Beijing conferenceon women with these words: “Everywhere, women’s rights are under attack, starting with the freedom for women to control their own bodies, and in particular the right to abortion.”

But two days away from a national day of demonstrations against the planned bioethics law, that is taking place in all the major cities of France, EDS’s move came as an embarrassment, calling attention to the pervasiveness of the abortion “culture” at a time when Macron is trying to spread the idea that the bioethics law is a “balanced” and “appeased” text.

In a tweet following its adoptionafter a second hearing by the National Assembly, Macron said of the text on August 1 that it gives “equal access to assisted procreation for all women, secures children’s rights” and  “frames research in a debate that respected one and all.”

What is really happening is that artificial procreation is to be made available to lesbians and single women. The right to embryo research, including the creation of chimeras, will become the rule, and “medical” abortion right up to birth is said to become legal when a mother has “psychosocial” problems that doctors are willing to confirm.

This general law on bioethics is also yet to pass the hurdle of a second reading by the Senate. But in the long run the National Assembly has the upper hand and the addition of a new debate on “ordinary” abortion that is available without any conditions at all is expected to exacerbate the opposition, according to some commentators. 

Sadly, in political circles, the opposition is mainly aiming to preserve the status quo and promoting the original abortion law which allowed “voluntary interruption of pregnancy,” as it is called, up to 10 weeks gestation, provided the mother obtained recognition of the fact that she was in “distress” by a doctor and observed a seven-day cooling off period.

In practice, these conditions have always been very loosely observed, if at all, and the “distress” requirement was scrapped in 2014under François Hollande’s socialist rule. Slowly but surely abortion has become a “right” that to date has been extended to the first 12 weeks of gestation, available on demand and 100 percent funded by the French Social Security.

This first extension was obtained in 2001 on the pretext that “3,000 to 5,000” women were compelled to obtain abortion in neighboring countries every year because they were beyond the legal time limit in France. These same numbers are being bandied in order to obtain a further two weeks, although no document actually confirms this situation. Many promoters of abortion complain that it is ever harder to obtain in certain regions in France and that excessive delays are pushing many women over the edge of the time limit.

This is hard to believe. In 2019, France registered a record number of abortions since the beginning of the 1990s, with over 232,000 abortions in 2019, 8,000 more than the previous year. Besides, the majority of these abortions are now being performed by chemical means, access to which has been made easier during the COVID-19 lockdown (in France, from March 17 to May 11).

Remarkably, the first extension from 10 to 12 weeks has led to the increase of conscientious objection to abortion and fewer practitioners are accepting to perform the act at all. But due to the sharp decrease in surgical abortions, this does not mean that fewer women are being allowed legally to kill their own child: quite the contrary.

In the days leading up to the debate on the 14 week gestation limit, the French National College of gynaecologists and obstetricians (CNGOF) explained that it was very much against the new extension, in particular because of the inhumanity of the procedure.

Its president, Israël Nisand – who is a personal supporter of legal abortion and “medical” abortion up to birth for babies with malformations – said that between 12 and 14 weeks, the unborn baby’s skull has formed: “In order to extract the head of the fetus from the uterus, it is necessary to crush it with a special clamp; this act of fetal dilaceration is not only dangerous [for the mother, according to the CNGOF] but one can understand that it can shock the majority of practitioners without reticence being marked by any religious or moral connotation.” He recalled that the unborn baby’s size doubles between 12 and 14 weeks gestation.

Nisand suggested that in the COVID crisis, with hospitals under pressure, it would be a good thing for a lot more public money to be spent on abortion and that “this action would be favorable to women’s rights.”

But Nisand’s graphic description of abortion beyond three months of pregnancy caught the imagination of many (not that abortion is fundamentally different when it is performed before or beyond the 12 week limit, but that’s another matter). 

But it seems as if Nisand’s description of the reality of a surgical abortion has suddenly allowed the debate on abortion to go public again. In recent decades public opposition to legal abortion has been so excluded from mainstream politics and media that many pro-life initiatives in France shy away from asking for the simple abrogation of the first 1974 abortion law, and instead merely call for a return to its stricter conditions. This is despite the fact that the number of legal abortions in France has not varied much since that time: from about 180,000 to 230,000 abortions each year. At the same time, “contraceptive coverage” in France is among the highest in the world.

Will the latest attempt to facilitate legal abortion be adopted, or will it backfire by attracting attention to the reality of abortion? Will it further encourage opponents to try to make their voices heard more clearly? Or will it lead to more promotion of the 1974 law which opened the door to the legal killing of unborn babies?

Only time will tell. The same is true of conscientious objection; already, objectors are required to refer their patients to more compliant doctors. If the specific legal right to conscientious objection is replaced by the merely administrative right to general objection, pro-life doctors and in a general way all health workers will be in a precarious situation.

Several bishops have voiced their opposition. Bishop Michel Aupetit of Paris stated on the official Catholic radio station of his diocese: “Abortion is truly a terrible act. The right to kill does not exist. It is really madness. Babies are being killed in their mothers’ womb as if it were an ordinary thing. (…) At 9 months! Do you realize what that is? It’s butchery! It’s an aberration!” 

On October 7, the permanent council of the French Bishop’s conference issued a statement voicing its concern about the bioethics law and the latest attempt to ease conditions of access to legal abortion, asking “all citizens, especially Catholics, to make their reticence and opposition known.”