A 21-year-old woman with Down syndrome fulfilled her lifelong dream to present the weather report on French television last week despite previous state rulings banning those with the condition from television.
Mélanie Ségard presented the weather report for the evening news on channel France 2 on Tuesday, March 14, drawing an audience of more than 5 million viewers.
More than 200,000 people supported a Facebook campaign by a French charity asking that the young woman be allowed to present the forecast.
“Mélanie represents a message that transcends her dream: to be considered just another person in a society that gives everyone the same opportunities,” said Unapei, the association of parents with children with disabilities, in a statement.
Ms. Ségard’s appearance on the evening news was an anomaly for French society, which is very conflicted over the question of Down syndrome, especially because over 90 percent of unborn babies diagnosed with the condition are aborted.
Last November, France’s State Council confirmed a television ban of a video showing images of smiling Down syndrome children, declaring that the “inappropriate” images might bother women who had chosen to abort their babies diagnosed with Down syndrome.
The Council stated that the award-winning video, titled “Dear Future Mom,” could not be shown since it was “likely to trouble the conscience of women who had made different personal life choices in compliance with the law.”
“The law stipulates that only advertising messages or ‘messages of general interest’ be shown during commercial breaks. The Council determined that this film does not constitute a ‘message of general interest’,” the governing body said in a statement on its website.
Rather, it is “likely to disturb women who have had recourse to a medical termination of pregnancy and thus is inappropriate for airing during commercial breaks,” the statement added.
The ban underscored the French government’s insistence on keeping abortion legal and holding back information that could sway public opinion against the practice.
In December, the lower house of French parliament passed a law censoring information on abortion provided on pro-life websites, calling it “deliberately misleading, intimidating and/or exerting psychological or moral pressure.”
Providing “false” information on abortion online would be punishable by up to two years in prison and a 30,000 euro fine, a stipulation that pro-life advocates were quick to denounce.
French politician Marion Maréchal-Le Pen called the measure an “aberration” and a frontal attack on “freedom of expression.”
Maréchal-Le Pen criticized an official government website, which tells women considering an abortion that “there are no physical or psychological after-effects from abortion.”
“In reality, the government seeks to kill any alternative to its official propaganda that aims at trivializing abortion,” she said.
The politician said that it is insulting to suggest that women cannot handle contact with alternative opinions on abortion. “Women are responsible beings who should be treated as such,” she said.
Tuesday, March 21, marks the annual celebration of World Down Syndrome Day.
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