France has voted to approve medically assisted procreation for lesbians and single women despite strong opposition from political conservatives and the Catholic Church.
The National Assembly passed Article 1 of the bioethics bill on Friday by 55 votes against 17, with 3 abstentions.
“In the name of the best interests of the child, I consider that we cannot deprive him of a father. I therefore voted against the extension of medically assisted procreation,” stressed Catholic parliamentarian Annie Genevard, explaining her opposition to the bill as “the right of the child before the right to the child.”
France’s lower house of parliament began a fierce debate on the Procréation Médicalement Assistée (PMA) bill last Tuesday, focusing on the question of “what is a family?”
Supporting the bill, Left Front politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon said: “Yes, it’s the end of patriarchy. Women will give birth to children without the permission of men.”
Mélenchon fired back at Genevard:
From what do you want to protect the child? From the absence of father? It is a prejudice. Filiation has never been anything more than a social and cultural construct. Fatherhood has always been a presumption: there is no biological truth, there is only one truth: it is social and cultural.
“It’s the end of patriarchy. Women will give birth to children without the permission of men.
Catholic MP Emmanuelle Ménard opened the debate with a motion of censure against the bill, denouncing it as a “dangerous” and “incoherent” project, which would “deliberately deprive children of father.”
“France will enshrine in law the optional father, who are you to allow such a mutilation?” the National Front politician emphatically stated.
The Church and Bioethics Working Group of the French Episcopal Conference expressed its “anguish” over the legislation, describing it as a “slippery slope” representing a “radical rupture” with previous bioethics laws.
The bishops’ working group, headed by Pierre d’Ornellas, Archbishop of Rennes, criticised the draft law on four grounds.
First, offering IVF to single and lesbian women “would create inequalities between children depending on whether or not they have a father.”
Second, the law denies “the realities of the body and carnality” by listing two mothers on the child’s birth certificate in the case of a birth to a lesbian couple.
Third, the bill would put the will of the parents to start a family above the rights and best interests of the child.
Fourth, the legislation would open the door to “eugenics” by allowing women to search for a sperm donor with the physical characteristics they desire for their baby.
“The breeding market is an international business already estimated at $ 5 billion.”
Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit blasted the new law as leading to “monstrosities” and “mad science.”
However, traditionalist Catholics said that the bishops were hesitant to call for protests against the bill and instead preferred to encourage and “help our fellow citizens realize the seriousness of the issues before us.”
Conservative Catholic organisation La Manif Pour Tous has launched a nationwide campaign against the bill, which will be “funded by Social Security in difficulty for several decades.”
“It would also lead France in the international sperm business and open the way to the business of surrogacy for couples of men but also for women who would not wish to carry their child,” the organisation said, pointing out the eugenic impact of the bill.
“People describe it (sperm) as white gold, it’s a product that generates a lot of profits. This breeding market is an international business already estimated at $ 5 billion. And from the moment we buy gametes the question of quality will arise and will lead to selection of the sex, colour of the eyes or other criteria specific to each desire,” it added.
Under the new laws, children conceived with donor sperm can access the donor’s identity when they turn 18. Donors are guaranteed anonymity under current legislation.
The bill also extends the right of women in their mid-thirties to freeze their eggs. This procedure is currently available only to women undergoing treatment that could affect their fertility.
France’s medical ethics committee also issued “reservations” over the bill emphasising that “the father figure remains a founding stone of the child's personality” and that “the deliberate conception of a child depriving it of a father constitutes a major anthropological break that is not without risk for the psychological development and well-being of the child.”
A poll published Wednesday in gay magazine Tetu showed 61 percent of French people backed lifting the IVF ban for lesbian couples. That number is up 15 points since 2013.
“France will enshrine in law the optional father, who are you to allow such a mutilation?”
Medically assisted fertility techniques are currently restricted in France to heterosexual couples with proven infertility.
LGBT rights groups say it is unfair for that lesbians and single women to travel to Belgium or Spain to fertility clinics, paying thousands of Euros for IVF treatment.
The bill also is set to change the law for lesbian couples to write “mother and mother” instead of “mother and father” on the child’s birth certificate.
President Emmanuel Macron, who backs the legislation as his government’s first major social reform, has warned MPs the debate could be another explosive six years after a same-sex marriage law in 2013 triggered months of mass protests.
La Manif Pour Tous is holding a protest day on October 6 in Paris under the banner “Marchons Enfants!” 2.5million leaflets have already been distributed; “so many opportunities to talk to the French about the importance and role of the father,” Ludovine de La Rochère, President of La Manif Pour Tous announced in a press release.
Health Minister Agnès Buzyn aims at a final adoption of the bill before next summer, which would allow an effective access of the PMA to all women “immediately from the time of the law promulgated.”
PMA is already allowed for lesbian couples and single women in ten out of twenty-eight European Union countries: Portugal, Spain, Ireland, United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Finland.
Seven countries allow it for single women but not for lesbian couples: Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Cyprus. Austria and Malta allow it for lesbian couples but not for single women.
(Originally published in Church Militant. To comment on this piece, click here)