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Catholics say exam forced pupils to back abortion

FRANCE. Education minister Gilles de Robien has dismissed complaints from Catholic family organisations that a biology question in the baccalaureat exam forced candidates to present a positive view of abortion.

The optional question was based on an article published last December in Le Monde marking 30 years of legalised abortion.

The article emphasised that the law had intended a change from "pregnancy under duress" to "chosen pregnancy", and showed its introduction had not affected population growth.

Candidates taking the literary bac - who sit their biology paper when they are between 15 and 18 - were asked to "present the arguments in favour of authorising voluntary termination of pregnancy in France" and to "discuss the idea that abortion is not considered as a means of contraception".

Pro-life and Catholic organisations including the Paris Catholic teachers'

association and, more discreetly, the parents' association Unapel, objected to the question.

They claimed it forced candidates to take a pro-choice stance on abortion, acting as "wretched advocates for an anti-natural cause", and denied them the right to express their own views.

But the education ministry said the protesters had misread the wording; pupils were not required to take a pro- or anti-abortion stance, only to present a case from the text provided.

Gilles de Robien said in a television interview last week that the exam had been about testing scientific knowledge and, "contrary to what has been said, (was) not a philosophy exam which required an opinion on voluntary termination of pregnancy, or whether one was for or against it".

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