France: numerical obstruction to abortion could become an offence


Laurence Rossignol, the French Minister for Families, Children and Women’s Rights, stated on September 17 via France Info TV that next Wednesday September 28th, she will announce a number of actions which the government will take before the end of the current legislative period, against web sites which are «using numerical means” to obstruct abortion.

Mrs Rossignol assumes that some web sites, purporting to be informational sites, actually aim to advise young women against abortion. “This deceitful approach must be pointed out; I call this “numerical obstruction to abortion” (…). To express one’s opinion against abortion, this is called freedom of speech but to deceive young women this is a crime” the minister declared on France Info TV.

In 2013 the government launched its own informational site on abortion. A controversy broke out in 2015 on the one-sided nature of such information: in one on-line video on the government’s site, which claims to inform women about abortion, an obstetrician gynecologist insists that abortion has no long-term psychological consequences, mentioning studies without citing references. However according to the March 2013 Opinion Way Survey for Nordic Pharma, 85% of women declare having experienced suffering during their medical abortion, including moral suffering for 82% of women, and physical suffering for 67%. This confirmed a previous Ifop survey in 2010 on women and abortion: 83% of women think that abortion leaves painful psychological marks.

Jurist, Bertrand Mathieu, in an interview by La Croix, voices his concern: “It is somewhat difficult to consider that a piece of information, even if presented in a biased manner, can constitute an obstruction to abortion. It is highly dangerous to control the partial nature of the information put on the Web”. This professor of public law states: “It seems to me that such a step would most likely be judged anti-constitutional. It appears to clearly overstep the control that the State can exercise on freedom of speech. We cannot reserve specific treatment for abortion without triggering wider repercussions. In my opinion, for a web site to be punishable by criminal law, on the specific issue of abortion for example, it would have to explicitly incite to obstruct abortion, by calling for an occupation of abortion clinics.”

Tugdual Derville, General Delegate for Alliance VITA states:

« We don’t know to what point Mrs. Rossignol intends to control the information given to women or men involved in abortion, but such a fantasy of publishing official information is not fooling anyone. Alliance VITA is well aware that women, but also couples, at every age, need to be clearly informed about what abortion really is. Too often, afterwards, we hear: « No one told me… ».

We do not think that these ministerial threats are aimed at Alliance VITA. Rather we have the feeling of someone throwing their hands up in the air, since we know how difficult it is to censure Internet. Yet, we do request for the government to guarantee balanced objective information on its own site, rather than biased one-sided information. Why try to disguise the fact that abortion ends a life and that it cannot be considered as just a routine trivial practice? The large majority of women want to avoid abortion. Must we wait for a change in government to finally see politicians willing to promote other alternatives to abortion? This is the service for which many have long been awaiting.”

Caroline Roux, Coordinator for the Listening Services of SOS Baby agrees:

« These successive controversies are disrespectful of women facing an unplanned pregnancy, whether they are young or mature. Trying to make an abortion « an inalienable right» makes it even more difficult to objectively face the real facts about abortion. There are human lives at stake and these women often find themselves alone when confronted to these existential issues. We expect public authorities to propose prevention policies to help women avoid abortion, which is certainly not a trivial decision. For the past 15 years, the quality of information from public authorities has been deteriorating. The French law on abortion voted in 2001 eliminated the information on the benefits and support for women who wish to go on with an unplanned pregnancy. In too many cases, women are only hastily given technical information on abortion practice. Which means that at the exact moment when they are experiencing inner and outer conflicts, financial aid and assistance to continue a pregnancy are much harder to find.”

Alliance VITA again emphasizes the urgent need for a genuine political abortion prevention policy.. If we do not want abortion to be the only way out for women confronted with an unplanned or difficult pregnancy, we should provide them exhaustive information on the benefits and support to which they are entitled.