Pro-life websites in France could soon be banned after a Bill was passed in the National Assembly.
The “Digital Interference” Bill, approved after just one day of debate last week, carries a maximum prison sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to €30,000 for people who run sites which “exert psychological or moral pressure to discourage recourse to abortion”.
The move has been heavily criticised by pro-life groups and political figures in the country.
Dr Joseph Meaney, the director of international coordination for Human Life International, slammed the Bill.
“We are in the realm of unrestricted pro-abortion propaganda and the most stringent censorship of free speech if it contradicts the view that abortion is a wonderful solution to crisis pregnancies”, he said.
Dr Meaney added that even if the Bill should become law, it will be challenged in the courts.
The leader of the Republicans party group in the Senate, Bruno Retailleau, also criticised the Bill as “totally against freedom of expression”.
Abortion is allowed on demand in France up to 12 weeks after conception and is funded by the state.
During the debate on the Bill, a member of the National Assembly said that it violated “the original intention” of the 1975 abortion law which encouraged seeking alternatives.
The Bill would make it illegal for websites to “deliberately mislead, intimidate and/or exert psychological or moral pressure to discourage recourse to abortion.”
It will now proceed to the Senate for a second reading later today.
The Senate cannot block laws, but it can delay them until amendments are inserted.