Tags: Socialist | State | Pushes | Abortion | France

Socialist State Pushes Abortion on France

Monday, 27 November 2000 12:00 AM

In October, the National Assembly passed a measure allowing school nurses to distribute the morning-after abortion pill - at taxpayer expense - to girls as young as 11 years.

Known as Norlevo, the pill is available at French drug stores for about $8 and at abortuaries and other "family planning" centers without charge. And this week, lawmakers will vote on another controversial measure - whether to extend the legal period for an abortion from 10 to 12 weeks and allow minors to receive abortions with no parental consent.

No one is disputing the outcome. Both pieces of legislation are expected to sail into law by year's end. Indeed, what is perhaps most striking is their relatively smooth ride in this supposedly majority-Catholic country, even if the country's constitution is studiously secular.

"We're a Catholic country, but we're ashamed and fearful of saying we are Catholic," complained Christine Boutin, head of the Alliance for Rights of Life, and of one of the few French lawmakers vowing to vote against the legislation.

"Even parliamentary members who are Catholic don't respect their training. This is the big difficulty that we have in France."

While conservative Christian groups in America weigh heavily into the debate over contraception and abortion legislation, their influence is diluted in France. One of the largest groups, Boutin's Alliance movement, has a membership of about 30,000 and an annual budget of just more than $1 million. Leaders of France's 3 million Arabs and Muslims, along with the Catholic Church, have condemned the abortion legislation.

Nonetheless, both agree a profound disconnect exists between religious practice and daily life for many French.

"It's difficult," admitted Dalil Boubaker, president of the Mosque of Paris, of second-generation Arab girls torn between strict family rules and the free-wheeling norms of the street. "Because of the secularity in France, there is no religious education in schools. There is no Islamic education in schools."

"We're at a very liberal period now," said the Rev. Stanislas Lalanne, spokesman for the Conference of Catholic Bishops of France. Abstinence, preached by Pope John Paul II, remains a distant "horizon" for many French teens, he said.

"Catholics in France are taking what they like of religion," Lalanne said. "They take a little bit of the Gospel, a little bit of Asian wisdom. And what we get is a sort of religion ala carte."

At the family planning in Serge Prefecture, Gazengel, a Catholic, said she did not mind religion-a-la-carte. "I am comfortable with my spirituality," she said.

But even in the laid-back final months before a new millennium, Gazengel said, having sexual relations before marriage remains a traumatic decision for many French teen-age girls.

"When your education and your culture tell you it's not good, are you big enough to transgress?" she asked.

For thousands of minors, the answer is "yes." Of the roughly 10,000 French teens who become pregnant each year, about 6,000 choose abortion. The country's overall number of abortions - about 220,000 annually - is one of the highest in Europe.

Abortion advocates say the broader abortion legislation is unlikely to increase those numbers, an argument anti-abortion groups reject. The birth-control supporters also say that allowing easier access to contraception in school might trim those statistics.

But at the Serge Prefecture clinic, 18-year-old Chloe expressed doubts about the school distribution plan. "Here at the clinic, people don't know you," said the law student, who withheld her last name for confidentiality reasons.

"In school, it may be difficult, because the nurse will know who you are, and your friends will know where you're going."

Chloe and another clinic client, Marie Noelle, considered themselves practicing Catholics. Yet both said they would consider abortion.

But Catholic leaders say both pieces of legislation have missed the point. Teens should be given lessons in love, they argue, not lessons about sex.

"These campaigns have all been campaigns of prevention, never of education," said Lalanne.

Copyright 2000 by United Press International.

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In October, the National Assembly passed a measure allowing school nurses to distribute the morning-after abortion pill - at taxpayer expense - to girls as young as 11 years. Known as Norlevo, the pill is available at French drug stores for about $8 and at abortuaries and...
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2000-00-27
Monday, 27 November 2000 12:00 AM
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