13 February 2018
French Catholics should join public debates on bioethics reform
Among the issues are possible legalisation of medically assisted procreation for single women and lesbian couples, surrogate motherhood and euthanasia
French bishops have called on Catholics to participate actively in government-sponsored public debates about the reform of the country's bioethics law due later this year.
The National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE) has launched a series of meetings around the country between experts and the public meant both to inform citizens of the issues involved and to hear their views. It also has a website where citizens can send in their opinions.
Among the issues are the possible legalisation of medically assisted procreation for single women and lesbian couples, of surrogate motherhood and of euthanasia.
The Church opposes these measures and other faiths have expressed strong reservations. President Emmanuel Macron has signalled support only for the first option, but some members of his government have argued for more.
"The Catholic Church intends to take its place and respond to the fundamental question these public debates pose: what kind of world do we want for tomorrow?" a letter signed by Archbishop Georges Pontier, head of the bishops’ conference, and nine other prelates, affirmed. "Respect for the human being in his or her dignity and vulnerabilities is at stake."
The letter urged Catholic groups to inform parishioners about bioethics and participate in the debates. On 20 January, an episcopal conference working group brought together lay activists from about 50 dioceses to discuss the issues.
A recent survey showed growing support for change. Some 60 per cent of the French favour extending IVF — now available only for infertile heterosexual couples — to lesbian couples while 64 per cent support legalising surrogate motherhood.
It also showed 89 per cent support for either legalised euthanasia or assisted suicide. Four-fifths also approved of genetic engineering to avoid illnesses in babies.
The debates are due to last until the middle of the year and the CCNE will present a synthesis report ahead of a parliamentary debate in the autumn.
At their annual meeting last week, Dutch bishops warned Belgium’s Flemish bishops about the “completed life” campaign in the Netherlands to extend euthanasia legislation to include people who are tired of living. Both countries allowed ending life for grave medical reasons in 2002 and have since progressively loosened the criteria.
PICTURE: Pro-life demonstrators take part in a March for Life demonstration in Paris on January 21, 2018 against abortion, assisted reproduction and euthanasia ahead of debates about reform of the country's bioethics laws ©PA
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