The French National Assembly has voted to approve a bill that would outlaw some pro-life websites.
The Socialist government wants to criminalise sites which it says “exert psychological or moral pressure” on women not to abort. The proposed offence would be punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment and a €30,000 fine.
Archbishop Georges Pontier of Marseille, president of the French bishops’ conference, has written to President François Hollande expressing his concern about the bill.
Archbishop Pontier urged Hollande to not allow the bill’s passage, calling it a “serious infringement of democratic principles”.
French law already prevents pro-lifers from demonstrating outside abortion clinics. Supporters of the bill argue that pro-life tactics have now moved online and must be stopped.
The bill will now need to pass through the French senate, which blocked the legislation earlier this year.
Dominique Tian, MP for Les Républicains, said there was a “very heavy atmosphere in parliament” and accused the government of “attacking freedom of expression”.
He said the government’s proposals were “dangerous for democracy and probably anti-constitutional”, and that his party would do all it could to stop them.
On Thursday Laurence Rossignol, the Socialist women’s minister, told parliament: “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.
“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.”