National Security & Defense

In France, a Defeat for Free Speech and the Right to Life

(Dreamstime image: Katarzyna Sokolowska)
The Parliament has voted to criminalize pro-life advocacy on the Internet

The French Parliament this week approved an abominable measure criminalizing pro-life speech on the Internet, in the name of women’s freedom to choose abortion without remorse. If the measure is formally enacted, which seems likely, the punishment for anyone who violates its proscriptions will be over $30,000 in fines and up to two years of jail time.

Supporters of the law have attempted to fend off well-deserved criticism by noting that the measure punishes only “misinformation” about abortion, supposedly in order to protect women from false and pernicious anti-choice rhetoric. But the bill’s language undeniably criminalizes nearly all pro-life speech — or, at the very least, allows most types of anti-abortion speech to be judicially interpreted as “misinformation” when viewed from a progressive perspective. One clause in particular justifies free-speech concerns about this bill, as it deems criminal the wielding of “moral and psychological pressure, threats or intimidation against medical and non-medical [personnel] working in these institutions, [or against] women who undergo or seek information about a voluntary termination of pregnancy, or any acquaintance of the latter.” This language illustrates the insidious nature of the bill, in which fair pro-life arguments (which presumably would fall under the category of “moral pressure” are associated with “threats or intimidation.”

Critics of the measure agree that any government willing to approve such a heinous law would surely go on to define this “moral and psychological pressure” expansively, using it as an umbrella term to criminalize anything from the online sharing of abortion alternatives to the statement that Christianity regards abortion as immoral. In neither of those cases could the information be considered factually inaccurate, but they could easily be considered criminal under the auspices of the forbidden “moral and psychological pressure.” In fact, during the debate over the bill, Senator Françoise Laborde, a member of the Radical Party of the Left, called pro-life websites “horrors and lies” and announced her intention to prevent them from operating at all.

Anti-abortion activists are not the only people who should find this law problematic. It strikes at the heart of one of the most fundamental rights in a democratic society: the right to free speech. In the United States, such a law as this undoubtedly would be considered unconstitutional by every judge in the country. For anyone who values the role of uncensored speech in a free society — and especially for any U.S. resident who appreciates the uniquely vibrant system of free expression fostered here — this measure should set off alarm bells. It is troubling in and of itself but even more so on considering how easily similar logic could be used to banish free speech in any number of realms.

The willingness of the French legislature to pass such an overarching criminalization of free speech — evidently because it is speech of which the government doesn’t approve — betrays the totalitarian instinct embedded within progressivism, the underlying notion that any and all opposition to the set of beliefs established by the accepted regime must be silenced by the power of law.

Over the past four or five decades, progressives both here and abroad have glorified sexual autonomy and the rights that enable it, insisting that they are absolute, of paramount importance. What’s more, these rights — whether to abortion or contraception or even a government-recognized same-sex marriage — must not only be protected absolutely but also guaranteed, and even funded, by the federal government. What is now only a left-wing fever dream in the U.S. has already been realized in France, where 100 percent of abortions have been fully federally funded since 2013. The government provides no-cost contraception to young women between the ages of 15 and 18, and there is a growing effort to extend that coverage to all French women.

But even the full funding of these “rights” is no longer enough. Because the progressive movement has deemed the ability to access a guilt-free abortion the pinnacle individual rights — the so-called sacrament of the Left — free citizens will now no longer be permitted to brook any dissent. Progressive dogma must not be contradicted, no matter the cost to free speech or human life.

Anti-abortion activists are not the only people who should find this law problematic. It strikes at the heart of one of the most fundamental rights in a democratic society: the right to free speech.

This mentality was evident in France late last month, too, when the government banned an ad showing children with Down syndrome talking about their happy lives, meant to reassure mothers of children with the same condition. The council ruled that the video could not air on French television because the children’s smiles would “disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal life choices” — in other words, because seeing those children happy would upset women who had aborted their own Down-syndrome children.

These violations of free expression stem from the same twisted conception of liberty, in which the state determines which groups are permitted to exercise which rights and silences all who dissent from this government-protected vision. France’s recent displays of this progressive view of freedom prove that the state has chosen to protect women from “misinformation” about any abortion alternatives and to shield post-abortive women from any feelings of guilt, all at the expense of the unborn children who must die by the thousands on the altar of progressive dogma. And now an entire society will be muzzled so that this evil lie can continue.

#related#Though it seems unlikely that such a law could ever take hold in the U.S., strains of this same progressive totalitarianism are evident here, too, particularly on college campuses, where conservative and religious dissenters are silenced swiftly, and any deviation from a progressive worldview is firmly denounced by the powers that be. And while the free-speech rights of pro-life citizens surely won’t be endangered here, the Democratic party often shows strains of a similarly totalitarian mindset with regard to the protection and funding of “reproductive rights.” The U.S. isn’t on the road to totalitarian enforcement of a left-wing agenda, but the French government now offers us a warning of what can happen when a state takes progressive dogma to its logical ends.

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