(CNSNews.com) – French lawmakers on Thursday will debate and vote on a government-backed draft law that could criminalize online pro-life advocacy. The legislation would extend the ambit of already-illegal “interference” in abortion to cover digital media.
Any website carrying material that is deemed to be “deliberately misleading, intimidating and/or exerting psychological or moral pressure” aimed at persuading a mother not to abort her child could face criminal charges, with punishments of two years in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros ($31,800).
A Catholic archbishop has called the move “a very serious attack on the principles of democracy.”
Supporters, including Minister for Families Laurence Rossignol, say the goal is to prevent the dissemination of inaccurate or biased information, but critics view the wording as vague and dangerous.
“One could hardly be vaguer in the description,” argues Gregor Puppinck, director of the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) – an international affiliate of the Virginia Beach-based American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) – which opposes the initiative.
“It is difficult to understand how the mere consulting of a website information page could obstruct the practice of an abortion or the information about it,” he said in an article Wednesday. “This vague crime is opened to the most extensive interpretations.”
Puppinck says that that clearly violates a French Constitutional Council ruling that legislation must define crimes “in terms precise and clear enough to exclude arbitrary decisions.”
France legalized abortion on demand until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy – or what is known officially as “voluntary interruption of pregnancy” (L’interruption volontaire de grossesse or IVG) – in 1975.
In 1993 another law was passed, creating the offense of hindering or interfering in an abortion – aimed at preventing pro-life activists from physically blocking access to, or occupying or otherwise targeting abortion facilities.
The law was later broadened to cover “moral and psychological pressure” aimed at dissuading abortion, and the legislation now under consideration seeks to widen that further into the digital realm. Keep reading