French Senate Special Committee on Bioethics: Some Success Albeit Mixed

In early February, the French Senate will continue to examinate the bioethics bill at second reading. The latest version of the bill produced by the Assembly was amended by the Special Committee, without achieving ethical relevance.

This latest version amply illustrates the discordant viewpoints. Even though the Committee, like at the first reading, was reluctant to allow wider access to ART, the last text is disputable:

  • Health care costs for ART (assisted reproductive techniques) in the event of medically diagnosed infertility are reimbursed, but simultaneously women without a male partner are allowed access to ART with a donor, thus depriving children of any paternal bond.
  • the anonymityof gamete donors is lifted but only where the donor consents to it when the donor-conceived person requests it when he is 18
  • Other controversial measures adopted by the Assembly have not yet been modified at this stage: double donation of gametes, oocyte auto-preservation in the absence of any pathology, and dual maternity parentage.

As established at first reading regarding children born abroad from surrogacy, the ban to transcribe foreign birth certificates onto the French civil registry is still enforced. Moreover, this ban also plans to include foreign court rulings where surrogacy contracts determine a child’s parentage. Thus, French law does not acknowledge any foreign decisions stipulating “any woman other than the one who gave birth as the mother” as well as those which mention “two fathers.”

Nonetheless, the Committee has not rescinded the MP’s amendment which, under the guise of a “derogation”, would allow lucrative establishments to collect and stock human gametes. This is a terrible shift towards the procreation market for France, which has always made the principle of non-commodification of humans and of the parts of their bodies, a fundamental ethical principle.

Just as they did at first reading, the senators have upheld their commitment to protect the very integrity of the human species by maintaining the prohibition to manufacture animal-human chimeras and transgenic human embryos.

After widespread public criticism, the Committee finally rejected the clause to allow abortions of healthy babies up until the date of birth for the unverifiable criteria of psychosocial distress.

When the February 2nd session opens, all of these provisions will be debated, and the bill could undergo further amendments.

The incoherent measures adopted by the Senate Special Committee demonstrate the profound controversies and biases surrounding this bill. The Senators still have the opportunity to create a coherent, cutting-edge legislation: a bioethical policy which includes environmental challenges and human ecology and protects future generations from serious injustices.

The most important issue is that of infertility. In spite of this, the Senators deleted section 2bis, thereby abolishing a national research program to study the causes and prevention of infertility, arguing that it is not a legislative matter. Nevertheless, this major health issue does merit the government’s attention.

During the session, the Senate can intervene to hold a vote to request an annual report on the measures to prevent infertility, educate the public, coordinate research to restore fertility and establish procedures to fight the causes of infertility, including those resulting from personal behavior and environment.

Alliance VITA actively continues to alert the public and raise awareness and calls on supporters to mobilize with “Marchons enfants!” on January 30th and 31st throughout France to insist that senators reject the bioethics bill as it currently stands.

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