French press review 28 September 2018

Does French abortion law need to be revised? Some members of the Senate clearly think it does. What did we learn from the contrasting performances at the UN General Assembly of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas?


The main story in left-leaning daily paper Libération wonders if those doctors who invoke the freedom of conscience clause in French abortion law to refuse to terminate pregnancies are not, in fact, abusing their position.

The reason the matter comes up now is that, later today, a group of Socialist Party senators will start the legal process which could result in the outright suppression of that conscience clause.

Last year 217,000 French women needed medical assistance to end their pregnancies before term. Earlier this month, the president of the union representing gynaecologists, Bertrand de Rochambeau, sparked debate by saying that doctors should have no part to play in what he called the "withdrawal of life", adding that he was thankful for the opt-out clause in the original law proposed by Simone Weil in 1975 which allowed him to live in peace with his conscience.

Agnès Buzyn, the current health minister, criticised Rochambeau and called for an investigation of the behaviour of certain objecting doctors who, the minister fears, may be failing in their legal obligation to redirect their patients to a colleague who will perform an abortion.

The operation is legal here in France, provided the woman is not more than 12 weeks pregnant. No doctor can be obliged to carry out the procedure.

The 50,000 signatories of a message supporting the initiative taken by the Socialist Party senators say the conscience clause stigmatises women who choose to abort, because it make the termination of pregnancy a special case, half medical, half legal.

Those supporting a change in the law point out that all medical staff have the right, in all cases, to refuse to carry out an act which is contrary to their personal or professional beliefs.

So the clause in the Weil law was unnecessary in the first place and serves only to complicate things for women, many of whom already have sufficient complications.

A tale of two leaders

Centrist daily Le Monde has been looking at the contrasting performances at the United Nations yesterday of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu was in triumphant form, according to Le Monde, using the unstinting support of the Trump administration to attack Iran, claiming that Tehran has not given up on its ambition to develop nuclear weapons.

The Israeli leader called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit a site in the Iranian capital immediately, claiming that it was a secret stockpile of atomic material.

"Whatever Iran tries to hide, Israel will uncover," he continued.

Netanyahu went on to stress that Israel will never allow any regime which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state to develop nuclear weapons. "Not now, not in 10 years, not ever," he said.

The Israeli prime minister described the six-nation deal on Iran's atomic research, which has been unilaterally abandoned by the US administration under Donald Trump, as based on lies, saying it had done nothing to reduce the danger to Israel.

In sharp contrast, the Palestinian leader, who made his address just 30 minutes before Netanyahu, appeared to be on the defensive, according to the paper, perhaps because of the negative weight of Trump decisions like the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the recent freezing of US aid to Palestinian refugee organisations.

Abbas began his speech by insisting that Jerusalem is not for sale and that the rights of the Palestinian people are not negotiable. He says he wants peace. But he rejects America's attempts to control the direction of talks independently of the other members of the negotiating quartet - Russia, the UN and the European Union.

Abbas lamented a series of American decisions which, according to him, have reversed previous US committments and put the two-state solution at risk.

Donald Trump has promised the deal-of-the-century between Israel and Palestine before the end of his presidency.

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