The French government is one step closer to criminalizing websites that “exert psychological or moral pressure” on pregnant women to not have an abortion.
The “digital interference” bill, which was passed by the French National Assembly, will now go to the senate for approval before becoming law.
According to Women’s Minister Laurence Rossignol, the bill isn’t meant to silence the pro-life position, but to stop websites that appear neutral from “manipulating people.”
France legalised abortion more than 40 years ago and already has a law that makes it a criminal offence to intimate or pressure a woman in order to stop her terminating a pregnancy. This law was initially aimed at anti-abortion protesters in the 1980s who tried to physically obstruct women from accessing clinics or advice centres, and was later extended to anyone exerting moral or psychological pressure on women.
The government now wants to extend the law further to include websites, claiming that the anti-abortion battle that used to take place outside clinics has now moved online.
“Everyone is free to affirm their hostility to abortion online or anywhere else, but on condition of doing it in all honesty, because freedom of expression can’t be confused with manipulating people,” Rossignol told members of Parliament. “Thirty years ago, campaigners chained themselves to the gates of family planning clinics or operating tables to stop women accessing terminations. Today the next generation continues this battle online.”
If passed, breaking the law could mean two years in prison and a fine up to 30,000 Euro (roughly $32,000).
Conservative members of Parliament vowed to do all they could to stop the legislation.
The proposals are “dangerous for democracy and probably anti-constitutional,” Republican MP Dominique Tian said.