. "La Penible Valse Hesitation: Fetal Tissue Research Review and the Use of Bioethics Commissions in France and the United States." Society's Choices: Social and Ethical Decision Making in Biomedicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.
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Society's Choices: Social and Ethical Decision Making in Biomedicine
the series of commissions since the mid-1980s, each created to review the recommendations of the purely advisory CCNE, and despite the call for action by French president Mitterrand,51 further legislative action stalled again in May 1993, and Senate review and action was not expected until late 1993.52 This occurred despite Mitterrand's enthusiastic vision of a bioethics law that transcends political party or even national boundaries and which would, incidentally, position France as the leader in the European bioethics movement: As Mitterrand stated in April 1993:
The Parliamentary debates ... have shown that political divisions did not affect this kind of discussion. ... Besides, the principle of respect for persons has universal appeal, so despite some differences in ideas or sensitivities . . . it is desirable that all European countries find their way toward a common set of values.53
As in the United States, some of the resistance to implementing Mitterrand's vision lay in the politics of the abortion movement. For example, there was the pressure of researchers fighting anti-abortionists over the issue of sanctity of research versus embryonic life, and general fear that unforeseeable consequences of the new technologies would outstrip legislative, religious, and philosophical efforts. 54 The American anti-abortion movement exported some of its most violent forms of debate to France in the form of Operation Rescue. In its local incarnation, the movement focused mostly on clinic services, but it did register opposition to the bioethics law project as well, using the public hearings as an occasion on which to attack the underlying law concerning abortion.55
And the National Assembly debates did feature some very forceful antiabortion rhetoric. For example, the appointment of member Yvette Roudy as the chair of the assembly's ad hoc committee to examine the law proposals (Bioulac was its rapporteur) drew a blistering response by conservative member Christine Boutin, who charged that the appointment was an "open provocation," as Roudy was known to be a woman "leading the struggle against the defense of the embryo, and therefore against life."56
On the other hand, another commentator characterized the procedure by which the CCNE opinions became legislative proposals as one that "does honor to French democracy." He noted that, in the beginning of the process ten years ago, the project was universally embattled "by three contradictory forces: the conservatives, for whom any law would be too liberal; the liberals, for whom any debate risked a return to debate over abortion law; and some researchers, for whom any law would be a potential obstacle to pursuing biological and medical research."57 But the sincere desire of French politicians to sink their teeth into a significant and sexy subject seems to have countered those forces inherently inclined toward the status quo: