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Rt Rev Anthony Ireri Mukobo
French “digital interference bill” : A legal violation of democracy and fundamental human rights
France’s parliament has approved, on February 2 2017, a bill criminalizing websites that aim to dissuade women from terminating a pregnancy. The “digital interference” bill is aimed at silencing French websites that would, in the words of the bill, “deliberately mislead, intimidate and/or exert psychological or moral pressure to discourage recourse to abortion.”
Convicted website owners could face two years in prison and fines up to 30,000 euros ($31,799 USD).
France first banned interference with abortion in its penal code back in 1993, creating the offense of hindering or interfering in an abortion. The law was later broadened to cover “moral and psychological pressure” aimed at dissuading abortion. The new legislation seeks to widen that further into the digital realm.
The Catholic Church has rightly protested against the bill. Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris criticized the current French government for its obsession with abortion. In a letter to President Francois Hollande, on November 28 2016, Bishop Pontier, president of the French Bishop conference, urged him against allowing the measure to be put in place. Bishop Pontier said the bill “calls into question the foundations of our freedoms and especially the freedom of expression…Can the slightest encouragement to keep one’s child qualify as ‘psychological and moral pressure?’ ” The archbishop argued that limiting free expression in a way that moreover impacts freedom of conscience “seems to me to be a very serious attack on the principles of democracy.”
Even if this law is limited to France, and is only an extension of previous legislation, it does constitute a clear violation of the freedom of expression and cannot be approved, especially when it comes from a country which prides herself on being tolerant, broad-minded, and always fighting in the defense of human rights. In this instance, it would appear that the French government interprets “human rights” as a kind of a privilege to be enjoyed only by women seeking a medical procedure that, from a health standpoint, is not in their or their unborn child’s best interest.
FIAMC protests this immoral law and its future consequences, and denounces the abuse it constitutes. Such a law contradicts the universal moral law and cannot be obeyed in conscience. It is hoped that a future French government will abolish it quickly in order to restore the now tarnished image of this great democratic nation.