French bishops urge prayers, fasting as Senate considers bioethics bill

French bishops urge prayers, fasting as Senate considers bioethics bill

A poster promoting medical assistance for procreation is displayed in the lobby of a Paris hospital Sept. 19, 2019. France's Catholic bishops have launched a national prayer campaign against a new government-backed bioethics law that, among other things, would extend rights to in vitro fertilization beyond married couples. (Credit: Benoit Tessier/Reuters via CNS.)

France's Catholic bishops have launched a national prayer campaign against government-backed bioethics legislation that would extend abortion and in vitro fertilization rights.

PARIS — France’s Catholic bishops have launched a national prayer campaign against government-backed bioethics legislation that would extend abortion and in vitro fertilization rights.

The bishops also proposed fasting in January and February and reminded people to pray for and support caregivers.

The bioethics bill, a flagship commitment by President Emmanuel Macron after his 2017 election, passed in the National Assembly in July and will have its second Senate reading Feb. 2.

It extends the abortion period from 12 to 14 weeks, and in some cases to term, while scrapping an eight-day reflection period and conscientious opt-out right for doctors in France.

Besides extending IVF rights, currently restricted to heterosexual couples diagnosed with infertility, the measure will also permit surrogacy and authorize “savior siblings,” or embryos created for stem-cell treatment of older children.

“Examining this bill closely, we see it reflects a cultural clash between technologies considered as absolutes and human moral responsibility,” the Bioethics Group of the French bishops’ conference said in a statement published on its website.

“May God our Father charge us with building together a society where technologies retain their humble and useful place as a service, and where true brotherhood will grow.”

At least a thousand people protested the bill in a Jan. 17 march, with 10,000 taking part via the internet, in what organizers said was a bid supported by most French citizens to “bring a halt to bad policies.”

The bishops’ conference was represented by Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen at the march. Other church leaders, including Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Vatican nuncio, sent messages of support.

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