- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 12, 2000

France has just become the first country in the world where the school nurse may dispense not only bandages, mercurochrome and aspirin, but also the abortion pill known there as Norvelo. That means that French girls as young as 12 may now pop into the nurse's office between classes not only to soothe a sore throat, but also to terminate a pregnancy with or without parental consent, with or without parental notification. In other words, it is now probably easier to keep a pill-induced abortion from Maman and Papa than a bad report card.

While France's decision may only incrementally intensify the liberal attitudes that already permeate Western teaching practices about sex, contraception and abortion, this is nonetheless a shocking and dispiriting development. As Norvelo enters the school supply closet, schoolgirls and, by obvious extension, schoolboys will learn a vivid, pill-sized, humanity-diminishing lesson that teaches them just how cheaply and lightly they may take the creation of life, themselves and each other.

The government says that this policy is designed in part to fight an unacceptably high level of surgical abortions in France. Despite (because of?) the widespread availability of condoms in the schools for years, France's abortion rates have remained among the highest in Europe, with 10.5 of every 1,000 girls under age 20 receiving an abortion, according to the World Health Organization. (In the United States, almost 30 girls per thousand between the ages of 15 and 19 receive abortions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) The French government is betting that Norvelo, which must be taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, can provide a no-fuss method of terminating pregnancies while putting a dent in those uncomfortably large abortion figures. (To obscure the unpleasant similarities between an abortion pill that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting itself in the womb, and an abortion that removes a fertilized egg from the womb, the government has inaccurately dubbed Norvelo the "late contraception pill."

But will Norvelo-on-demand affect French children's behavior that is, for the better? Or will it serve to increase the incidence of the kind of casual, even indifferent sex that has regrettably become the norm for the young? Surely, this is not a subject the schools should be teaching. "No decision like this is wholly without flaws," Segolene Royal, deputy education minister, said to the New York Times by way of explanation. "But at the same time, there exists a universal morality that demands that we relieve human suffering when we can." Please.

Christine Boutin, a deputy in the French National Assembly, its only pro-life member in fact, this week told The Washington Times editorial page that the decision on Norvelo is nothing short of a disaster, on three counts. "It is a medical scandal. It is a moral scandal because it can be given without parental consent and so interferes in the family relationship. And it is a social scandal because you weaken the family which is the foundation of the social organization." She added that the pro-life organization she heads, with 20,000 members, had tried in vain to take out ads protesting the Norvelo decision in three national newspapers to no avail; not one of them would accept their money.

It is hardly the demands of universal morality that have stocked France's schools with abortion pills. It is, of course, more apt to say that it is the demands of universal immorality, or, rather amorality, that have brought France to this action. It should be clear that a high abortion rate reflects a lack of something else in a society besides easy access to abortion pills for school girls.

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