January 28, 2024 | The Guardian

Cécile Simmons on France’s “dangerous game with abortion rights”

ISD Research Manager Cécile Simmons writes an op-ed for the Guardian, highlighting some of her recent research for ISD on anti-abortion groups in France and how they are applying tactics from international groups to fuel anti-abortion sentiment in the country, something that may have been further validated with President Emmanuel Macron’s so-called ‘demographic rearmament’ plan.

“France needs babies. During a press conference on 16 January, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, pledged to tackle the scourge of infertility and offered enhanced parental ‘childbirth leave’ as part of his ‘demographic rearmament‘ plan to revive the country’s declining birthrate.

While his goals may be commendable, Macron’s rhetoric sounds alarmingly close to that of authoritarian and right-wing populist leaders who have been aggressively pursuing pro-natalist policies in recent years. After all, Vladimir Putin recently urged Russian women to have ‘eight or more children‘ as he seeks to reverse the decades of population decline that have only been exacerbated by heavy casualties in Ukraine.,” Cécile writes.

Cécile, co-author of ISD report Networks of Dissuasion: Mapping Online Attacks on Reproductive Rights in France, clarifies that Macron isn’t Putin, but warns that the government is “flirting with the pro-natalist far right,” all while the French Parliament is suppose to be debating whether to enshrine pro-choice laws into their Constitution. French leaders had first announced they would seek to protect reproductive rights constitutionally following the US’s overturning of Roe v. Wade., “recognising that reproductive freedoms are fragile and at the mercy of a change in government.”

But as Cécile says, Macron’s government “has, so far, emboldened and legitimised the country’s anti-abortion movement by resorting to fearmongering around declining birthrates (in 2023, France still had the highest fertility rate in the EU), and directly engaging with anti-abortion organisations. Earlier this month, to the dismay of women’s rights campaigners, the health minister paid a visit to a leading anti-abortion organisation.”

ISD’s new study “shows they [anti-abortion groups] have turned to social media and are using an ever-broadening range of tactics to dissuade women from seeking abortion care, reach new audiences and influence public opinion. They are aided by social media algorithms and the inadequate policies of platforms that largely fail to address abortion-related dis- and misinformation.”

The full article is available on the Guardian.