08 October 2019, The Tablet

Thousands march in France against assisted procreation


Current French law allows assisted procreation only for heterosexual couples with reproductive problems


Thousands march in France against assisted procreation

A demonstrator in solidarity with the march against assisted procreation waved the flags of the Yellow Vests and the Manif Pour Tous on Sunday, October 6, 2019
Photo: Samuel Boivin/NurPhoto/PA Images

Tens of thousands of people have marched in Paris against the expected legalisation in France of assisted procreation for single women and lesbian couples, showing the ranks of opposition to the government's latest reform of national bioethics laws are determined but not large enough to block the change. 

The march, just a week after the National Assembly backed the reform in its first reading, mobilised almost 75,000 people, according to media estimates. As usual, numbers cited by organisers and the police – 600,000 by the former, 42,000 by the latter – diverged widely.

Marchers waved flags marked “Liberté, Egalité, Paternité” to say a child had a right to a father. Others argued the law would lead to a further reform legalising surrogate motherhood, which remains illegal here.

The Church hierarchy, a leading critic of expanding the right to assisted procreation, did not officially call on Catholics to march. But it took the unusual step of posting on its website comments from 56 bishops who criticised the government’s plan and urged opposition to it, often including public protests such as the march.

In a typical comment on his diocesan website, Bishop Raymond Centène of Vannes said the decision to march was personal but noted lay Catholic groups backed the Paris march and added a link listing transport options around Brittany “for you to travel to Paris on October 6”.

Current French law allows assisted reproduction only for heterosexual couples with reproductive problems. The planned reform marks the next step in the gradual liberalisation of France’s bioethics laws that began with the legalisation of same-sex marriage under the Socialist government in 2013. 

Although some amendments may still be made, the bill looks set to be voted into law in the coming months as the first major social reform of centrist Emmanuel Macron's presidency. 

Several of the same groups that organised the surprisingly large protests in 2012-2013 against same-sex marriage were also active this time around, but the turnout fell markedly short of those demonstrations. 

There were also few politicians present, a sign that the issue had lost some of the edge that the debate against same-sex marriage provoked. 

Many participants said the legalisation of assisted procreation would inevitably lead to allowing surrogate motherhood as well, a reform opposed by an even larger percentage of French. The government has denied it would do this.

Several of the same groups that organised the surprisingly large protests in 2012-2013 against same-sex marriage were also active this time around, but the turnout fell markedly short of those demonstrations. 

There were also few politicians present, a sign that the issue had lost some of the edge that the debate against same-sex marriage provoked. 

Many participants said the legalisation of assisted procreation would inevitably lead to allowing surrogate motherhood as well, a reform opposed by an even larger percentage of French. The government has denied it would do this.


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