PARIS, January 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) — This year’s annual March for Life in Paris, on Sunday, was different from all those that preceded it since a coalition of pro-life movements organized the first event in 2005 to mark the 30th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in France. Ten years on, the tone has changed: what started as a celebration of life, demanding “laws for life,” has become a graver, more determined condemnation of laws that organize the legal taking of lives.
According to the organizers, 45,000 people of all ages, with a predominance of young adults and teenagers, took part in the March.
This year’s edition also took up the question of euthanasia: the socialist government of François Hollande, is gearing up to obtain a vote on a new “end of life” law that aims to create patient rights to “deep and continuous sedation,” or slow euthanasia. The debate is expected to take place in March.
Year after year, the numbers of demonstrators marching through Paris demanding respect for unborn life – and now human life at its end – have been growing steadily, together with support from a number of Catholic bishops. For the first time, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyons was present among the marchers, albeit discreetly. Fourteen other bishops voiced their support for the March.
The papal nuncio in France, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, extended Pope Francis’ “cordial greetings,” encouragement, and blessing to the Paris March for Life, recalling what the pope had said to the Italian Catholic Doctors’ Association last November: “Human life is always sacred, valuable and inviolable, and should, as such, be loved, protected and cared for.”
“Beyond a legitimate demonstration in favor of the defense of human life, the Holy Father encourages participants in the March for Life to work without respite in view of the edification of a civilization of life and a culture of life,” he added.
The event received coverage from several mainstream news sources – who counted anything from “several hundred” to “several thousand” pro-lifers walking from the Place de Denfert-Rochereau with its famous bronze lions to the place Vauban in front of the Invalides. Police figures were closer to 25,000. Watching the dense crowd go by at a brisk pace through a wide avenue from a neighboring balcony, a fellow journalist counted 40 minutes between the head and the tail of the March, which makes the larger estimates more likely.
Media interest has grown for these events since the wildly successful “Manifs pour tous” or anti-same-sex “marriage” rallies that marked 2013 in France. Hundreds of thousands took part, shocking the largely liberal and progressive media in France who were taken by surprise by this unexpected mobilization. But that was against a law that was still under discussion. Public opinion in France is numbed to the reality of abortion, all the more so because opposition to legal abortion is practically absent from public political life. Only one representative from the French National Assembly, Jacques Bompard, mayor of the southern town of Orange, is openly vocal about reversing the present legislation. He was present at the March and spoke of the necessity of fighting against the “barbarity” of abortion.
Under these conditions the fact that the Paris March for Life is managing to get over 40,000 people on to the streets and is in fact gaining momentum each year is in itself remarkable. In forty years, abortion has claimed the lives of at least 200,000 unborn babies a year. As Grégor Puppinck, director of the European Center for Law and Justice, said during the rally, one of every five pregnancies in France ends in abortion. At a European level, the proportion is even higher: three out of five.
Latest figures published on the occasion of the abortion law’s 40th anniversary show that on paper, one out of three women have aborted in France – in reality, the proportion is less than that because growing numbers of these have had multiple abortions, in a context where abortion is being increasingly presented as a right and receives 100 percent funding out of the State budget.
Cécile Edel, the Paris March for Life founder and herself the mother of a large family, opened the event asking for complete silence and a moment of reverence, thinking of the millions of babies who lost their lives to abortion.
“This is a time of mourning,” she reminded the crowd, many of whom were carrying pitch-black balloons. During the march, the marchers were asked to burst their balloons: like a thunderclap symbolizing so many innocent deaths, the noise also illustrated righteous anger at the massive killing organized and subsidized by the State. Cécile Edel delivered a frank and clear speech at the March’s end, speaking of a law that had pushed France into an “unprecedented ethical revolution.” “Forty years ago, something new entered into our laws: no less than a license to kill,” she said, under the pretext of protecting a “false liberty of women.”
“Tomorrow, with euthanasia, there will be a license to kill under the pretext of false charity,” she added, promising that pro-lifers will not rest before having won the battle against the culture of death.
The March’s organizers chose to give special attention to the case of Vincent Lambert, France’s Terri Schiavo. Lambert, 38, was left deeply paralyzed and in a minimally conscious state by a motor accident 6 years ago. His doctor and his wife are fighting in the courts to obtain leave to deprive him of food and water so that he will die, after a failed attempt in 2013 when a court ordered for him to receive food after 31 days of starvation. Lambert’s mother, Viviane Lambert, who is fighting for her son’s life – his case is awaiting a decision from the European Court of Human Rights – was at the front of the Paris March for Life. She was joined by her lawyer, Jérôme Triomphe, and a neurologist and ethicist, Pr Xavier Ducrocq, who has supported her from the beginning of her legal battle.
Indeed, an official statement made by the March’s officials asked for respect for life at its most fragile or at its end, better palliative care for the terminally ill, the rejection of profound sedation whose objective would be to provoke death, and a clear and legal affirmation of the fact that the administration of food and fluids be considered as “ordinary care” and not as medical treatment that is keeping a patient alive artificially, as current interpretation of the end of life law will have it.
Very notably, the Fondation Jérôme-Lejeune took an unprecedentedly large part in the organization of this year’s March for Life in Paris. Jérôme Lejeune was the professor of medicine and close friend of John Paul II who discovered the genetic anomaly associated with Down syndrome: he was also a staunch defender of human life and for years now, the Foundation created in his name has been perpetuating his pro-life message by promoting and financing research on “illnesses of the intelligence,” as he called them, and helping and assisting parents of children with Down syndrome.
Jean-Marie Le Méné, the president of the Foundation, has become more and more outspoken on the question of abortion, euthanasia, eugenics (96 percent of preborn babies screened with Down syndrome are aborted in France) and he played a larger part in this year’s March for Life than before. This is also a sign of hope for France: opposition to abortion, campaigning for respect for human life is gaining weight and importance in civil society, despite the media’s tendency to blacklist all those who speak of the right to life of the unborn.