French Law a "Step Toward State Eugenics"

Bishops Oppose Sterilization of Mentally Handicapped

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PARIS, MAY 31, 2001 ( A new law allowing the sterilization of the severely mentally handicapped is a step toward «state eugenics,» warn France´s bishops.

The final version of the law on abortion and contraception was passed Wednesday in the National Assembly. Among other things, it extends to 12 weeks of pregnancy from 10 weeks the time when women can legally have abortions.

The law also allows a minor to undergo an abortion without parental permission. In such a case, the minor must simply be accompanied by an adult of her choice.

A few months ago, the Permanent Council of the French bishops´ conference, made public its opposition to this plan, which further liberalizes abortion. The conference has published a document entitled «Will We Have the Right to Mutilate?» which poses a fundamental ethical problem.

«To tolerate the mutilation of the weakest in society is truly a bad sign. In the name of the principle of precaution and for the safeguarding of a certain social comfort, a real aggression is accepted, a further step toward state eugenics,» the bishops wrote.

Bishop Jean-Pierre Ricard of Montpellier, vice president of the episcopal conference, told Vatican Radio: «What alarmed us about Article 20 of this law is the authorization of the sterilization of adults, who are in care because of severe mental handicap. This is something particularly serious, because sterilization is an internal and definitive mutilation, which profoundly touches a person´s integrity.»

He added: «We see in it a serious attack on the respect owed the human being. With this declaration, we wish to say that we are faced with an irreversible blow inflicted on persons regarded as unworthy to procreate because of their handicap. I think that this is an attempt against one of the fundamental human rights, that of respect for the integrity of the body itself. And this seems serious to us.»

Socialists, Communists and the Greens voted in favor of the law. The center right allowed its representatives «freedom of conscience,» but rejected the legislation overwhelmingly.

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