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French press review 21 September 2018


More on the battle of Brexit. A debate on who can and should be parents. This is World Alzheimer Day.

Centrist daily Le Monde once again gives the honours to Brexit, with a main story announcing that the mainland Europeans have reached the moment of truth, while insular British prime minister Theresa May is still trying to organise her own political brethren behind a policy which has already been rejected by Europe as unworkable.

In a fine example of the tail trying to wag the dog, London's Brexit minister, Dominic Raab, has been warning Europe that the continent will suffer dire consequences if the 27 remaining European Union states don't knuckle down and come up with a deal which suits her majesty's island subjects.

The mother of all arguments

The main story in right-wing Le Figaro looks at the way in which opponents of medically assisted perenthood are organising to resist a government proposal to extend the legislation to include lesbian couples and unmarried women. Several militant groups say they are prepared to take their objections into the streets, as they did five years ago to protest against homosexual marriage.

French Catholic bishops have already thrown their mitres into the ring with a solemn declaration saying that children can not be "constructed" by medical means and that parenthood must not become subject to market forces.

Le Figaro's editorial on the subject, headlined "The Virtue of Prudence," warns that France has seen a succession of ever more liberal laws introduced in the divisive areas of familiy and sexuality. When the simplified marriage procedure known as Pacs was introduced, says the writer, we were assured that the door to homosexual marriage would forever remain closed. It didn't. Once that gulf had been crossed, the debate about who can and should be parents came to centre stage, but we are again assured that the use of surrogate mothers is not the submerged part of the latest iceberg.

Le Figaro says that the perils of the potential legislation are frightening, given that it opens the prospect of an unholy alliance between scientific technique and market forces, with sperm banks, designer babies, choice of sex, choice of skin colour, intelligence, the Hitlerian nightmare of eugenics.

Such a law, says Le Figaro, is just one further proof of the divergence between the ordinary French voter and the ruling élite.

People are worried about their spending power, about the environment, about immigration or security. Medically assisted perenthood is far from being a priority. Could it be that President Macron thinks he can use this heated debate as a smokescreen to hide some of his more flagrant failings?

Does getting old mean going barmy?

On this, World Alzheimers Day, Libération devotes its front page to the question of the value of treating the scourge of senility as a disease.

The medical community would appear to have made its decision, describing Alzheimers as "the disease of the century". But is an increase in the various forms of dementia simply an inevitable consequence of the fact that we now live longer?

A quarter of a million new cases are confirmed in France every year. There is no cure, not even an effective treatment. The French health minister has decided that none of the currently available pills is any good, and she won't reimburse users.

Libé wonders if the whole debate risks turning old age into a medical problem. Especially when French society is poorly adapted to provide the long-term care needed by advanced Alzheimers sufferers, and French law is equally poorly placed to guarantee their basic rights and freedoms.

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