Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent


French Assembly approves more liberal embryo law

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits

February 16, 2011 ( - 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 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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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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