French Senate approves controversial bioethics law, drops key elements


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After two days of confused debates, the upper house of the French parliament voted Thursday morning in favor of an amended bioethics text, amputating the clauses that would offer the possibility of a medically assisted pregnancy to all women.

Majority right-wing senators voted to remove two pillars from the controversial legislation.

The ruling party (LaRem) and other senators voted against the revised text, believing it to be devoid of any substance and a waste of time.

In addition to the rejection of the key element of medically assisted parenthood for all women, a electoral promise made by Emmanuel Macron, the upper house also rejected provisions that would have allowed women to keep their own oocytes or eggs, without any medical justification.

Both amendments can be overturned by parliament when the bill returns to the lower house for third reading.

What a difference a year makes

When the same law was submitted to the Senate twelve months ago, the upper house approved crucial clauses allowing lesbian couples and single women to take advantage of medical technology to become parents. At the time, senators outright refused that the necessary medical intervention be covered by social security.

The position of many right-wing members has clearly hardened since then, perhaps due to the approach of elections, scheduled for 2022.

Bruno Retailleau, leader of the Republican group in the Senate, and possible right-wing presidential candidate in 2022, is resolutely opposed to opening up parenthood to lesbian couples or single women.

The Deputy Minister for Children and Families, Adrien Taquet, the ruling majority, regretted the end of the debate, suggesting that some senators were clearly putting their barely disguised electoral ambitions before their legislative duties.

Confused debate on controversial issues

In order to prevent the adoption of these clauses allowing single women to conceive medically, right-wing opponents have introduced a measure allowing autopsy medically assisted pregnancy, under which a woman could become pregnant using the sperm of a deceased husband. This has caused sufficient confusion to force the rejection of the entire section 1 of the proposed law.

Aware of the confusion, right-wing senator Alain Milon, president of the bioethics commission and himself in favor of medically assisted pregnancy for all, promised that there would be a second debate on the issue. This promised debate never took place.

Communist Senator Laurence Cohen said the failure of the further discussion was “a shame”, saying he and his colleagues were “trapped”.

“The shameful right is incapable of keeping a political promise,” Cohen said. “They have damaged the very reputation of the Senate.”

The conservative action group La Manif Pour Tous (Manifestation pour tous), founded to contest the right to same-sex marriage in France, and some of whose members demonstrated in front of the Senate during the debate on bioethics, welcomed this decision. .

“On behalf of the children,” the group said in a Twitter message, “we thank the senators for their wisdom.”

Various lesbian support groups called the decision “dismal, shameful and outrageous”.

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