Catholic Television Channel Slammed for Airing Pro-Life Film

Country: France

Date of incident: August 25, 2021

French TV channel C8 aired the American film "Unplanned" on 16 August. After airing the fact-base-movie members of the public, as well as high ranking members of the Government, called the movie a "despicable anti-abortion propaganda tool". C8, which is owned by Catholic French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, is now accused of "obstruction to abortion". Politician Élisabeth Moreno is now aiming to legally prosecute the broadcasting service.

Minister Delegate for Gender Equality Élisabeth Moreno "firmly condemned" the airing of "Unplanned", as on the one side it "goes against the government's values" and on the other side “puts forward scientific untruths that inexorably misleads the viewer”, as she stated in a tweet on 17 August.  She also stated abortion to be a "progress for our society and a fundamental and inalienable right for all women".

"Unplanned" portrays the life of Abby Johnson, former director of a "Planned Parenthood" facility in Texas. Planned Parenthood is an American abortion provider. Abby Johnson turned from the director of an abortion-providing centre to a passionate pro-life activist. 

In 2010 she wrote a book with the same title in which she described her experience and why she turned from pro-choice to pro-life. Book and film are meant to shed light on the reality of abortion by giving insight into what happens behind the walls of this international business and what the practice does for countless women. 

In a statement released by Montero's office, she affirmed “the state’s unwavering support for Planned Parenthood,” saying it “has already been attacked several times recently, as well as for all the feminist associations that carry out considerable work to provide access to the law, to education on sexuality, contraception, abortion, and equal rights for women and men.” 

Moreno stated that by broadcasting this movie at a peak viewing hour Bolloré and C8 expressed their support to "anti-choice movements" and has therefore, to be criminalised for "obstruction to abortion", as this has been penalised since 2017. The law states obstruction to abortion as follows: “Preventing or attempting to prevent the performance of or access to information about a voluntary termination of pregnancy […] by any means, including electronically or online, in particular by disseminating or transmitting allegations or information of such a nature as to intentionally mislead, for the purpose of dissuasion, as to the characteristics or medical consequences of a voluntary termination of pregnancy.”

Lawyer Adeline Le Gouvello challenged Moreno stating that the ground for her accusations is unfound since the movie is adapted from a true story and a lived experience. Le Gouvello stated in an interview that "putting this experience into images is a matter of artistic freedom and freedom of expression. To call this into question would fall within the ambit of crime of opinion.”

In response to Moreno's statement which labels abortion as “the inalienable nature of the right to control one’s own body. France fights against all those who would try to prevent women from having control over their bodies” Le Gouvello stated that abortion was never recognized as a fundamental right but is an exception to the principle of respect for life, which "opens a possibility for women to resort to it". 

After allegedly receiving multiple reports from viewers the French Audiovisual Superior Council (CSA) stated it would be screening the film and conducting a review of the referrals received. It further stated it would intervene with the TV channel if the movie fails to comply with the legal obligations, a verdict is expected in a couple of weeks.  

In a tweet responding to people calling the CSA to prevent the broadcast of Unplanned, it stated that as the “guarantor of freedom of speech and audiovisual communication it does not intervene in the programming of channels” as broadcasting services “are free to choose their programs.” However, it could intervene only afterwards should there be any breaches to the law.  


Photo by courtesy of Pure Flix Studios under