Tugdual Dervile, Director General of Alliance Vita and spokesperson of « Soulager mais pas tuer » (relieve but not kill), and Jean-Marie Le Méné, president of the Jérome Lejeune Foundation, are sharing their ideas concerning beginning and end of human life issues, a couple of days before their respective mobilisation.
On January 21st, “Soulager mais pas tuer” will be demonstrating in front of the Parliament against the conclusions of the Lénonetti-Clayes report concerning end of life issues; on the 25th, it will be the turn of the March for Life to deal with this subject. Is it still possible today to fight for the same cause without being united ?
Jean-Marie le Mené : The temptation of questioning the unity which can be found in demonstrations or events that aim at contesting society projects, never comes as a surprise. Do people prefer to go together or separately? In theory, the search for unity is defendable. In practice, it seldom occurs. This is a question I have been hearing for a very long time. It is a common question one has to answer with charity. The March for Life is a historical Institution, the date has been a part of people’s lives for a long time. This year, a specific topic has been added, imposed by the Parliament on January 21st.
Concerning this debate, another movement has decided to create a happening. I see nothing unusual in this succession of events and demonstrations that are working in the same direction, but are simply not following exactly the same calendar logic.
The way we go about things are different. The demonstration on January 5th is a march from a point A to a point B, with a clear political dimension. Vita’s approach is different, but our beliefs, convictions, and even our doubts are so close than even a cigarette paper would not fit between them.
Tugdual Derville : A yearly national demonstration and 60 gatherings all over France, on the very same day as the debate, come as two complementary modes of action. However, this must not put the complex and grave question of unity aside. More than just Alliance Vita, what took precedence over the Soulager mais pas tuer Foundation, is the importance of unity, but of a different kind than that claimed legitimately by the March for Life; it is the unity of all people hostile to euthanasia.
It is all a question of efficiency: there are opponents to euthanasia who are not hostile, for reasons that remain personal, to other transgressions. There are, in fact, two forms of unity that are not contradictory: a unity between all people hostile to euthanasia, who can be opposed on other subjects, and a unity between people who share the same beliefs, probably each one in a different way, concerning the defence of life, from its beginning to natural death. In the same way as for peace, unity is something that requires a lot of reflection. You can’t just throw it at people. It seems to me that, in France, unity is too often mistaken with a fantasy of democratic centralism, which risks us being locked up and reduced. Because if we mix up all the subjects –some adding a religious dimension-, we reduce our mobilisation to the “lowest common denominator”.
If the debate on euthanasia increases, is it possible to imagine a great street demonstration, the largest possible ?
Tugdual Derville : I believe this unified mobilisation already exists through “Soulager mais pas tuer”, conceived as a place where everyone can aggregate. Each issue needs the strongest coalition possible even if its participants do not agree on everything. Are massive street demonstrations needed? Yes. We have already reached the bottom of Everest, but there remains a lot to be done before it comes to the lethal injection. Will we really be capable of being joined on the subject by masses of French people? Yes, I hope so. We have to. This is the reason “Soulager mais pas tuer” exists : to be a movement which enables the greater number to firmly express its position against euthanasia without feeling excluded or used because of other subjects being included.
Jean-Marie le Mené : For the March for Life, there would be no trouble in getting together if there were to be a general call to demonstrate concerning end of life issues. The question shouldn’t even need to be asked. The banner is, in fact, not important, but I remain dubious when it comes to call-all, mass manifestations such as the one that took place on January 11th last. No one really knows why they are demonstrating, if not because of a vague feeling of agreement and compassion. Our marches for life have a very precise object: the objection of a law authorising euthanasia.
Beginning of life, end of life: same fight? Must the two always be put side by side?
Jean-Marie le Mené: March for Life has considered that, with everything going on concerning end of life issues, the defence of life couldn’t be cut in two. The two subjects are indivisible. You cannot cut the respect of a person into slices. One cannot say: « I am defending life at its end but not at its beginning”. To my sense, there are even more reasons to be favourable to euthanasia than there are to abortion. Logically, if one accepts to kill children before they are born, it is much easier to consider as compassionate an act which would end the life of a sick or seriously disabled person.
I understand the approach Tugdual and “Soulager mais pas tuer” have, but I remain dubious about the fact that it is possible to find people who would be in favour of abortion and not in favour of euthanasia. There may be some, in a marginal kind of way, but it does seem so incoherent. Especially that abortion is one of the main arguments in favour of euthanasia. It can be found in every parliamentary debate in which this argument is to be heard: “We have made ourselves the masters of developing life, there is therefore no reasons not to make ourselves masters of ending life”. You just need to follow the movement… Intellectually, and in terms of coherence, the exercise carried out by Tugdual is, actually, very difficult. By not remembering the mechanisms of the past, we condemn ourselves to relive them. We are, actually, reliving those used in 1975: compassionate terrorism, the medical world swept into politics, treason of the elites…
Tugdual Derville : I go along with Jean-Marie when it comes to the importance of history. That one claims this link between the beginning and end of life, or that one does not for reasons of prudence and respect of our allies, I would add another point concerning the repetition of history: manipulation of words. The government is currently trying to change the definition of euthanasia, consciously or not. It has reinvented, with sedation accompanied by the cessation of food and hydration, a type of euthanasia that keeps its name hidden. As Manuel Valls, once again, recently admitted, this attempt at creating new words, at changing the meaning of a concept, or avoiding using terms that cause anger, is not a new concept.
However, as much as I respect and share the convictions Jean-Marie Le méné expresses when he says that everything is connected, I plead not to amalgamate the subjects. It is even essential to be able to distinguish them… It serves our opponents’ dialectic to suggest that, because there is abortion, there should also be euthanasia! Tens of thousands of carers and volunteer are hostile to euthanasia, in all its forms, including that of Vincent Lambert, but most of them refuse to start a debate on abortion. At least, not today. Maybe tomorrow, or after tomorrow.
I think it is a risky thing to demand for an absolute coherence when it comes to defending life. I, myself, do not pretend to possess such a coherence, because the road that leads to the respect of life, of all lives, is so demanding that nobody has ever totally reached the end of it. I am, therefore, considerate towards people who, concerning some subjects, do not have the coherence I try to claim, but who may have it in fields I do not.
The government is reinventing, with sedation accompanied by the cessation of food and hydration, a euthanasia that keeps its name hidden.
On November 21st, Marisole Touraine, who announced a new bill on abortion for the 40th anniversary of the Veil law, spoke about the right of women to dispose of their body like a battle for the future. To what extent are the promotors of abortion ready to go?
Jean-Marie le Mené : Until the law becomes unnecessary. The ideal for them would be for the law to no longer be necessary: some feminists claim “freedom of aspiration”. We are going to find ourselves in a paradoxical situation, in which it will be us who will have to “defend” the Veil law! We are on the verge of arriving in dangerous zones in which one will no longer need any justification of any sort to abort. The only remnants of the law opposing abortion will be conscientious objection and delays, last obstacles that will need removing. Abortion is a subject that seems so distant that the rare opportunities in which we can talk about it –the anniversaries unfortunately provide them- must be taken. It is an issue that is being buried; even though, strangely, the word abortion is currently used much more than it was in 1975.
Tugdual Derville : I think it will be impossible to trivialise abortion, because it is a matter of life and death. As law tries to trivialise this act, people speak up. I am not, however, in favour of a policy of “deliberately worsening the situation to further one’s ends”, policy in which one falls a long way before getting up again. We need to carry on our work here and now, close to the people involved, amongst which are pregnant women.
Alliance Vita’s strategic line, is to bring abortion out into the open; talking about it to enable women to express themselves and speak of their suffering, in order to free their conscience. Many women are shut up in an absolute silence, a deadly silence. The denial of any notion of fault or sin in our society become secularised, makes them sink even deeper into guilt. This attitude of listening requires one to remains on the thin line where truth and mercy meet. It is our duty to keep up both the consciousness of the value of life and the work that consists in helping with the liberation of speech.
Freedom of expression has been discussed a lot lately. Does it exist when it comes to abortion ?
Jean-Marie le Mené : Among the consequences of abortion, one can notice there is a serious perversion of law and an inversion of right and wrong, of good and bad, of just and unjust. The instruments with which we ensure the respect of the right, the just, and the good have become ineffective. I will give you two significant examples. The first is about the video “Dear Future Mom” which was the object of some sort of censure from the “Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA, French audio-visual council).
By working our way backwards, we discovered that, in reality, there had been no complaints from the outside, as invoked by the CSA, but that these complaints had been formulated by several of its female members, whose conscience had apparently been awoken. The message sent by the CSA is incredibly violent! In the name of feminism and abortion, the survivors of abortion (97% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted, editor’s note) would not be allowed to speak up to say they are happy, because those who accepted abortion or performed an abortion could regret it? If people living with Down Syndrome want to dance, they may do so in a cellar or catacombs, but not on TV! There is in this a form of totalitarianism that we seriously need to denounce. In what name should feminism be permitted to impose the possibility of forbidding a category of people to speak? This is a perversion of law.
The second example is focussed on « Vous trouvez ça normal” (you find this normal), another of our campaigns, launched just as embryonic research had been legalised in 2013. In the name of abortion, we were not permitted to come to the defence of the lives of embryos, and we were condemned. If it is said that an embryo on the table of a researcher can be defended, it therefore means that embryos are human beings, and that abortion is illegitimate.” The reasoning is irrefutable.
Tugdual Derville : Abortion is the archetypal taboo subject. In our society, it really has become a family secret. Great denial has been built up around its reality, source and sign of a deep feeling of guilt in many women who have gone through with it. Hence the necessity to listen to them to help them overcome the effects of these acts which can make them suffer for a long time. I am angry at the absence of assistance for all these women who cry and “are not given the right to suffer”. Because, due to these forbidden sufferings, other issues encyst and come cascading out: self-depreciation, anxieties, relationship difficulties…
Must a link be made between demography and abortion?
Jean-Marie le Mené : I find it incredibly thoughtless and totally irresponsible to never ask oneself about the demographic consequences of abortion. 40 years ago, Jérôme Lejeune had already predicted this demographic winter, which we now know is being compensated by mass immigration. I am scandalised that abortion is so excessively moralised, to the extent that its political dimension gets forgotten. Listening to women is, of course, important, but it is only one side of the coin of abortion. Thus, abortion is not innocent in the change of civilisation we are currently experiencing. I even believe that abortion was meant to play a part: its goal was not only the liberation of women but the evolution of our society, its secularism, to force it to take a path which was not that of a post-war, Christian France. Demography is not limited by life at its beginning, it also concerns the end of life. When a country kills its children, it kills its future; when a country kills its parents, it kills its past. In a country which kills its past and future, there is nothing left.
Tugdual Derville : Indeed, the demographic impact is real; not on the totality of abortion figures, but on a part of it at least. Despite the denial from the family planning, which speaks of differed births, reasoning is enough to prove the consequences of abortion on demography. Many women abort by submission to their companion, who promises that when he is ready, they will have another child together. However, often –but not always- abortion causes the couple to break up. This child which has not been welcomed, signs its parents separation! To pretend that births are simply differed is absurd.
I agree with Jean-Marie Le Méné when he says it is not enough just to talk about abortion from women’s point of view, but are they not the “sanctuaries of the invisible”? Taking women into account means treating the subject very truthfully because a body does not lie. By doing this, we protect ourselves from ideological approaches that cut us off from reality.
I find it incredibly thoughtless and totally irresponsible to never ask oneself about the demographic consequences of abortion.
Jean-Marie le Mené
François Hollande has evoked a new law of consensus concerning end of life issues, while Manuel Valls speaks of « progressive steps”. Are we not being conned by the government ?
Tugdual Derville : I don’t know if one could say the executive branch of the government is playing a double game, because Manuel Valls and François Hollande give out the same talk, promising the parliament a consensus. On the other hand, the fact of having asked Jean Léonetti(socialist) to oversee the revision of its own law –which doesn’t need a revision but needs to be known and applied, apart from the parts where it has strayed-, is a political move which risks ensnaring the current opposition.
All the same, I cannot help noticing that Bernard Accoyer, doctor and former president of the National Assembly, and even Pr. Bernard Debré, clearly spoke against this report and the form of euthanasia represented by “continuous and deep sedation until death”. For us, it is about resisting against a project which is trying to impose itself through a pseudo-consensus when what it is really doing is distorting the debate by avoiding words that cause anger. We are therefore confronted with the necessity to explain complex concepts to the French.
Jean-Marie le Mené : As the word » euthanasia » is not in the law, one thinks it has been avoided. I actually regret the speech of the episcopal conference which said it was relieved that the Leonetti-Clayes report “doesn’t enter into euthanasia”. It was a mistake. Is it deliberate or naïve? I don’t know. I also regret that the episcopal conference seems to be laying low and complying to the Léonetti Law, when the excesses carried within this law, and shown by Vincent Lambert’s case, are well-know. To venture down this particular political road does not seem prudent to me. Parliamentaries of the opposition defend the Leonetti Law so as not to aggravate things; so be it. Politics is the art of making things possible. But it is not just, on a magisterium point of view, for the Church to erect as a reference a law that allows Vincent Lambert to be killed.
Let’s remember that the Leonetti law was already a first step towards disguised euthanasia, as it defined food and hydration as treatments. How could the “Association pour le Droit de mourir dans la Dignité” (ADMD, association for the right to die with dignity) not react strongly when faced with such a scandal, which consists in unplugging people, and therefore risks putting them in a state of proven discomfort and prevents them from asking for sedation until death? Leonetti wrote the first part of the law, and the ADMD will be writing the second for “humanitarian” reasons.
Is this way of legislating by successive steps consciously wanted, consciously planned?
Jean-Marie le Mené : Political leaders know very well they need to go gently. There are recording chambers and transgression acclimatisation gardens, such as the “Comité Consultatif d’Ethique” (CCNE, Advisory committee of ethics). It is not conscious for the everyday person, but there is a sort of collective conscience that is going that way, that thinks that “life is a material that needs handling”, as the freemason, Pierre Simon, explained so well. I am absolutely convinced that there is a managerial and financial dimension behind this question of euthanasia. It is during the last three years of our lives that we cost the most. We will not be able to face the cost of the end of life. Society considers it cannot do otherwise than regulate that period of life. I think the financial dimension is very important and that we are only at the beginning of a diabolical mechanism that needs to be thwarted.
Tugdual Derville : I see, in France, a double paroxysm. On the one side, you have this game of dominos which nearly always makes things tumble bit by bit, and on the other, a movement of humanisation, of progress. I am thinking of these specialised centres for people in neuro vegetative state or minimally conscious state, and of the creativity and engagement of the carers of sick or disabled people. Our society is stuck in incoherence, ambivalence. The more this paroxysm develops, the more its contradictions come to light. How is it that everything is done to exclude disabled people before birth, and that once they are born everything is done so that they find their place in our society? Refusing despair, I prefer to rejoice over the good and encourage it… The fact remains that we are slowly but surely moving towards a new choice of society: defending the basic and vulnerable Homo sapiens against the fantasy of a powerful and overbearing cyborg. This also will require a strong unity to resist.