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PARIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - Several thousand people gathered in Paris to protest a bill that would deny children the right to a father.
Sunday's Marchons Enfants protest was in response to a French social reform bill (PMA) that would legalize in vitro fertilization for single women and lesbian couples. It is currently illegal for anyone other than a married heterosexual couple to utilize in vitro fertilization in France.
The lower house of Parliament passed the PMA bill in a 55-17 vote on Tuesday.
Estimates of the number of marchers varied from tens of thousands to over 600,000. They carried flags that read, "Liberty, Equality, Paternity," a play on France's national motto of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." Others shouted or carried signs in support of dads.
"This protest is a warning to the government," said Ludovine de la Rochère, the head of La Manif Pour Tous (The Strike for All), the group organizing the protest. La Manif Pour Tous had four demands of the government:
La Manif Pour Tous' website explains there is already a shortage of sperm donors and French couples routinely wait one to two years for a donation.
Increasing demand for sperm will open the "breeding market" in France, already estimated at $5 billion worldwide.
"And because from the moment when we buy gametes the question of quality will arise and will come the selection of the sex, the color of the eyes or other criteria specific to each desire, as it is already the case with the United States," La Manif Pour Tous notes.
A much smaller group in support of the bill was also present as a counter-protest. Media reports explained both protests were peaceful.
The counter-protestors believe those who do not support the bill are trying to preserve an outdated patriarchal system.
French President Emmanuel Macron made a campaign promise to expand fertility services to single women and lesbian couples.
"My personal conviction is that we must extend the PMA, in the name of gender equality and the right to access a medical service," Macron said in March. "But I will respect the expected opinion of the National Consultative Ethics Committee and will also look at the state of society and the debates on it to act in a peaceful way."
The PMA bill is only a small part of a larger bioethics bill being debated at the National Assembly. This legislation is looking to update and replace legislation enacted in 2011 and will include statutes on embryo and genetic testing.
The PMA bill faced fierce debate in the house and strong criticism from the Catholic bishops of France. Both noted it would represent a departure from France's current bioethics laws.
Archbishop Pierre d'Ornellas of Rennes, France, headed the bishops' working group and explained the law "would create inequalities between children depending on whether or not they have a father."
He also blasted the PMA bill for denying "the realities of the body and carnality" and putting the will of the parents above the rights and best interests of the child.
Further, the bishops predicted the PMA bill would open the door to eugenics.
Marcher Monique Brassier told reporters she believes lawmakers are moving too quickly and aren't thinking about the consequences of this law.
"We are heading toward a commercialization of the human being, a commercialization of procreation, and that scares me," she said.
Olivier De La Chapelle, another marcher, said it is scandalous that they are passing legislation that makes it so a person won't have a father.
"We cannot live without our parents," he said. "That's the human condition."
The bill would not change the status of surrogate pregnancies, which are illegal in France. The PMA bill needs the approval of the upper house of Parliament before it can become law.
Supporters of the bill would like to see this happen by the spring of 2020.