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Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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HomeCulture WarIs it a crime to oppose abortion in France?

Is it a crime to oppose abortion in France?

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A SPECIAL ‘Congress’ at the Versailles Palace yesterday brought together members of the French parliament’s lower and upper houses to approve an amendment to the French constitution recognising the ‘guaranteed freedom for women to resort to an abortion’ (though in typical French fashion the word ‘abortion’ has been medicalised to ‘voluntary pregnancy termination’). Most of the political class, including but not limited to – heavens, no – left-wingers and feminists, had already broken out the champagne after the ‘conservative’ Senate voted overwhelmingly in favour of the amendment last Wednesday. The joint session of the Senate and the National Assembly was in essence a formality as well as a further opportunity for the government to bang on about how much it supports women’s rights against the ‘forces of reaction’.

You might be forgiven for asking ‘which forces of reaction?’ If we accept at face value the argument that those who oppose abortion are living in the last century (and not even in its last half), only 50 of them were apparently present in the Senate on Wednesday – out of 339 – and many simply couldn’t speak the words ‘not against abortion’ quickly enough before disputing whether it should be elevated into a Republican principle worthy of a Constitutional amendment. That said, some, speaking anonymously to sympathetic journalists, did confess they were voting with the tide precisely in case they were seen as being ‘behind the times’ or, indeed, ‘conservative’ a word which carries much more opprobrium in France than it does in the UK or USA.

In reality, this is President Emmanuel Macron’s real victory now it has been formally adopted: moving the Overton window ever further towards the freedom to end life, whether that be before it is born, or before its time, eager as he has been at times to make ‘dying in dignity’ (that is, euthanasia) permissible under French law. As any student of history will know, once a state has given power over life and death to individuals under the law, it is a short step to it assuming that responsibility itself, on behalf of its citizens, as it sees fit and proper.

The pusillanimity of the opponents of this measure may not just originate in the (apparently) overwhelming support for the constitutionalisation of abortion that exists in France, a positive opinion that might suggest Macron simply took an easy political gimme by pushing this reform forwards. Hostility towards those who take a different view on the issue is baked into the law through various amendments to the original 1975 statute which allowed abortion under certain circumstances and as a ‘last resort’. In 1993, it became illegal to ‘prevent or attempt to prevent’ an abortion by ‘’blocking access’’ to clinics or ‘intimidating’ anyone entering or leaving. In 2004, it became illegal to prevent women getting access to information about abortion. In 2017 it became illegal to spread ‘disinformation’ online about the ‘character or consequences of an abortion, with an aim to dissuade’.

That the object of this constitutionalisation might be to muzzle and ultimately entirely criminalise opposition to abortion could potentially be seen in one Senatrix’s reaction to the vote: Mélanie Vogel, a European Ecology Green Party member, said it would ‘send a message to all these [anti-abortion] organisations that it’s over, they’re utterly defeated’. There is a law in France that criminalises the expression of views adjudged ‘racist’ (which saw comedian Dieudonné go to prison for his anti-Semitic show). It may not be long before expressing a view that goes against the ‘right’ to abortion will become an imprisonable offence.

On Sunday February 25, in a recorded religious show broadcast on ‘right-wing’ news channel CNews, a graphic stating there were 73millions of deaths a year as a result of abortion in the world, compared with 10million deaths from cancer, was publicly condemned by two of its own lead presenters and journalists, Laurence Ferrari and Sonia Mabrouk. The latter tweeted an image of the woman who led the fight to make abortion legal, Holocaust survivor Simone Veil, with the words ‘guarantee, defend, sanctify abortion’. With friends like these on the channel which promotes itself with the slogan ‘freedom of speech has no price’, it will be harder than ever for more critical editorialists to hold the line in favour of freedom of conscience on the issue.

Many critics of the constitutionalisation simply dismissed it as ‘irrelevant’, codifying something in reaction to a non-existent threat to the existing law, and explicitly set in motion because of what had happened, not in France, but in the striking down of Roe vs Wade in the USA. It’s easy to see how, under the circumstances, this charge of ‘irrelevance’, partially true, might be the sole ground on which it could be legitimately challenged. However, that’s a case of not seeing it for what it is: a way of bolstering the state’s role as the ‘liberator’ of women and the defender of their ‘rights’, while preparing the way for a crackdown on dissenters to state policy on the matter in the future.

If you’re French and eager to defend the rights of unborn children to protection, watch out. Your views are now anti-constitutional, that is to say, anti-France. You have become enemies of the state.

An earlier version of this article appeared on The Price of Freedom on March 3, 2024, and is republished by kind permission.

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Richard Ings
Richard Ings
Richard Ings is an actor, musician, part-time revolutionary and one-time parliamentary candidate for the Brexit Party. He can be found on Twitter @richardcings or richard.ings@thedemocrats.org.uk. He writes at https://richardings.substack.com/.

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