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Marseilles Prelate Protests Legislation That Aims to Keep Abortion Information Off Internet

Govt accused of violating freedom of speech

The president of France’s episcopal conference, Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseilles, is asking French President Francois Hollande to put a stop to legislation that would hinder information regarding abortion from being available on the internet.

A communique with a letter from Archbishop Pontier was released Monday evening. The letter regards a private bill, in connection with the voluntary interruption of pregnancy (French acronym IVG), introduced October 12.

In his letter of November 22 to the President of the Republic, Archbishop Pontier expressed his “great concern” over the zealousness of the legislative majority to push through a measure that would injure, yet more, “the just rules of dialogue to build a life in society that respects one another.”

Archbishop Pontier reminded that IVG “remains a heavy and grave act that questions the conscience profoundly.” To impede Internet sites, which enable “hesitant women or women in distress to be heard” regarding a possible abortion, is especially injurious to freedom of expression. Such a measure would make women’s decision less and less free and would be a grave attempt against the principles of democracy.  

“In difficult situations, many women hesitate about keeping the child they carry. They feel the need to talk, to seek advice. Some of them, at times very young, feel a veritable existential distress in face of such a dramatic choice, which will mark their whole life. This distress, invoked for a long time to justify an exception to the principle of respect for every human being from the beginning of his life, inscribed in our Civil Code, has disappeared today with the announcement of the law …. Moreover, the law of modernization of the health system of last January has done away with the one-week delay for reflection granted to women before the eventual decision to undergo an abortion. In other words, women no longer find official support to their questioning in conscience,” said the Archbishop.

Archbishop Pontier continues, “Will it be necessary to exclude every alternative to abortion to be considered an honest citizen? Can the least encouragement to keep a child” be regarded as “psychological and moral pressure?” The measure would in fact contribute to make women’s decision less and less voluntary, and would “set a grave precedent to freedom of expression on the Internet — a limitation that is all the more grave as it touches questions of freedom of conscience” and “principles of democracy.”

The Archbishop ended his letter with the hope that President Hollande “will not let such a measure reach its end.”

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