In a ruling that smacks of how mediaeval society treated lepers, the highest French court has ruled that images of smiling children who have Down Syndrome may not be shown on public television . The Council of State upheld the official TV censor’s banning at peak viewing times during commercials of a video entitled “Dear future Mom” which the Jerome Lejeune Foundation sought to broadcast. This beautifully-made and emotional video was produced by the Italian Down Syndrome Advocacy organisation CoorDown for World Down Syndrome Day in 2014. The video features smiling children and young adults with Down syndrome from different countries reassuring a worried pregnant woman that her child can be happy.
The French attitude to children with Down Syndrome in the media is in stark contrast to the British one, where a major photographic exhibition on electronic advertising billboards throughout the UK gave prominence to a smiling girl with the condition. As reported earlier this month on Agenda Europe, the British attitude seems to be one of acceptance and inclusion. The French ruling clearly indicates an attitude of rejection, shame and exclusion.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, the former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has written a powerful article for the Boston Globe’s “Crux” magazine about the scandal.
The French ruling is disturbing on many fronts. In the first instance, it marks a step-change in the sinister eugenics programme being promoted by state authorities. Not only does the French Government seek to drive this minority group to extinction, they now want to hide the survivors of this extermination away from public view.
In addition, the ruling is a chilling warning of the totalitarian tendencies that go hand in hand with this “culture of death” starting with limitations on free speech and freedom of expression. Indeed, it is noteworthy that the French Court gave as one of its reasons for upholding the censorship that the video could be “disturbing” for women who have aborted a Down syndrome child. It is clear that the French State wants to ensure that abortion is viewed as purely a lifestyle choice and not one involving any ethical considerations.
It is to be hoped that the Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which is doing wonderful work for people with disabilities, will find the legal means to fight this totalitarian ruling, if necessary in the European courts.
Meanwhile, The Global Alliance for Disability in Media and Entertainment has started a petition on Change.org, saying, “The Global Alliance for Disability in Media and Entertainment (GADIM) as an international disability and media organization acting within a framework of human rights and with the support of the video’s creators CoorDown (Italy), respectfully asks the French government intervene to lift the ban.”