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FRANCE: Do Not Pardon Anti-Abortion Extremists, Urge Women’s Groups

Angeline Oyog

PARIS, Jun 4 1995 (IPS) - Women’s organisations are urging French authorities not to pardon anti-abortion extremists who have disrupted services in clinics and hospitals in determined attempts to deny women the right to have legal abortions.

Some 30 organisations have sent messages to various members of the government and to the parliament demanding that the pro-life radicals be excluded from the amnesty expected to be granted in the coming weeks.

An amnesty is traditionally voted by the parliament after the election of a new president. So the Justice Ministry is in the process of studying what infractions of law would be included in the amnesty.

An amnesty could wipe clean the police dossiers on members of anti-abortion groups who have been tried and convicted for mounting what Pro-Choice groups call “commando attacks” against private clinics and public hospitals.

Such a pardon, said Maya Surduts, spokeswoman for the National Coordination for the Defence of Abortion and Contraception (CADAC), would practically amount to an invitation to the anti- abortion groups to step up their “commando attacks”.

With the passing of a law in January 1975, abortion is allowed in France until the 10th week of pregnancy. But continued harassment by anti-abortion groups has been one of the obstacles hampering the respect for this right.

According to Surduts, “commandos” have launched some 100 attacks since 1990 and have intensified their actions since the beginning of the year “probably confident that they would be pardoned by the amnesty”.

At least 40 assaults have been recorded in 1995 all over France, including 20 in the Paris region.

Under the initiative of then Minister for Women’s Rights Veronique Neieirtz, a law was passed in January 1993 penalising all acts serving to impede the right to abortion with imprisonment of two months to two years, and fines between 2,000 francs (400 dollars) to 5,000 francs (1,000 dollars).

However, the Neiertz law has not deterred Pro-Life groups who have continued their so-called “rescue operations” and in some cases, in a violent manner.

In front of the private Ordoner clinic in Paris, members of the group “SOS Tout-Petits” (SOS Little Ones) adopt the “soft” approach, massing up regularly on Saturday mornings for religious chants and prayers.

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