- childbirth - France - human rights
Court ruling challenges French law on anonymous childbirth
A French court of appeals ruled Thursday that custody of an infant born under the country’s controversial anonymous childbirth law should go to its maternal grandparents against the mother’s wishes.
The Court of Appeals of Angers ruled Thursday that custody of an infant born in June 2009 under the anonymous childbirth law in France be granted to its maternal grandparents against the mother’s wishes, overturning the provisions stipulated by the controversial legislation.
“This is truly the beginning of the end for the anonymous childbirth law,” said Jacques Monier, the mother’s attorney.
“It’s a historic ruling by the court. France is allowing national legislation to be overruled by international agreements such as the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child, which France subscribes to,” Brigitte Bareges, a member of parliament for the ruling UMP party, told AFP.
Known as “Accouchement sous X”, the law allows for any woman to give birth under complete anonymity. It is different from more traditional patient confidentiality laws because no record of the mother’s identity exists, thus ruling out any possibility for the infant's natural mother to be identified.
The dispute over whether a child’s best interest trumps a mother’s right to anonymity resurfaced when Isabelle and Pascal Oger discovered their daughter had given birth to a premature infant in the summer of 2009, and that the child had entered the foster care system.
Despite their daughter’s opposition, the Ogers filed suit for custody and were able to prove kinship through DNA tests performed in October 2009. Once they had collected DNA evidence linking them to the baby, they urged the court in Angers to repeal the status of anonymity and rule according to the child’s best interest.
The court sided with the New York Convention of 1989, which states that a child “has the right to a name and to know who its parents are and to also be raised by them”.
“This gives us great satisfaction, we could hardly believe it”, Pascal Oger declared. “Now we must get everything ready to welcome our granddaughter…we hope one day our daughter too will want to be with her child,” he added.
Whose rights are right?
Hélène Poivey-Leclercq, a Paris-based attorney who specializes in family rights says this is only the first in a possible string of similar decisions. “Prior to this case, there was a sort of Berlin Wall that existed between the child and the unknown family. This case gives us a small opening and we’ll have to wait and see what happens next,” she told AFP.
For the UMP's Bareges, this court proceeding demonstrates that France is “looking for a way to balance the protection of the mother with the rights of children”. The French lawmaker cautioned that this was a very particular case since the maternal grandparents were suing the state for custody.
However, when Lauren Berrue, the grandparents’ lawyer, was asked if this case marked the end of the “Accouchement sous x” law, he replied, “it’s most certainly the end of absolute secrecy”.