The archbishop of Paris has criticized the French parliament's decision to debate a controversial bioethics bill which would increase access to in vitro fertilization while the country is still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

"Shamelessly, while our country has just gone through a health crisis that brought it to its knees, the government's priority is to have the bioethics bill passed in the National Assembly," Archbishop Michel Aupetit wrote in Le Figaro last week.

Aupetit, who practiced medicine and taught bioethics at a medical school before entering the priesthood, said there was no urgency requiring the French parliament "to force through" in July "this set of laws which affects the very essence of our humanity."

The bioethics bill allows medically assisted procreation for lesbian couples and single women. Currently in France IVF is restricted to married or cohabiting men and women with a diagnosis of infertility. 

The bill is scheduled to be debated by France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, at the end of July. If passed, it is expected to go before the Senate for a second examination in October.

"The pandemic from which we are just emerging has reminded us of our common vulnerability, the need to return to a certain sobriety, the richness, as well as the fragility, of family relationships, and now the government thinks it can quickly conclude the discussion of this bioethics bill as if nothing had happened," Aupetit wrote.

Caroline Roux, of the pro-life association Alliance VITA, said last month "we are here to denounce the government's obstinacy to push through the highly controversial bioethics bill by adding it to the parliament's agenda in July's extraordinary session. Considering the bioethics bill as a national priority when we are still recovering from a crippling health crisis is diametrically opposed to what this country urgently needs."

This month's debate will mark the bill's second reading, and comes right before the French parliament's summer recess.

The bill was originally adopted by the National Assembly in October 2019. At the first reading, more than 2,500 amendments were tabled. The Senate also adopted the text in early 2020, but amended it in February.

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In its recent committee, the National Assembly voted to include some amendments which had been previously rejected, including authorization of the ROPA method, also called "shared motherhood."

ROPA, which stands for Reception of Oocytes from Partner, is a method of in vitro fertilization which places the embryo fertilized with the egg of one woman inside the uterus of the woman's female partner for gestation.

Also reintroduced to the Senate bill was a provision on so-called "savior siblings" -- embryos created via in vitro fertilization for the use of the stem cells in their umbilical blood to treat a sick older sibling.

The creation of "savior siblings" was permitted under a previous bioethics law in 2004, but the National Assembly voted in October to discontinue its use in in vitro fertilization in France.

Archbishop Aupetit said June 29, "the culture of death that hangs over our country has been amplified by the fear of death caused by the pandemic."

"Here we are again engaged head down in the upheaval of the genealogical relations which structure the person, in the trivialization of the human embryos selected, analyzed and discarded like vulgar consumable products, in the artificial production of gametes which has no other interest than that of fueling the myth of procreation 'outside sex.'"

"It is indeed consumer society that pushes the desire of adults again and again without any consideration of the consequences on future generations. To the point of doing violence to them," he continued.

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"Is there not violence, indeed, when a child is deliberately deprived of a father, when selective abortions are arranged in the case of multiple pregnancies, when the child discovers that the embryo it was might just as well have ended up under a researcher's microscope or in a landfill after a more or less lengthy period of freezing? Is the child subject to the omnipotence of the 'parental plan' still our equal?" he asked.

The archbishop accused the country's representatives of pretending that there is no ongoing health crisis, as well as an "economic and social crisis" threatening to severely affect the lives of its citizens.

"It would be to the honor of our deputies to question this unjust and unequal project to focus on the real problems of the French," he concluded.