Under a long-standing arrangement called accouchement sous X, women - usually those whose pregnancies are the result of their being "in trouble" - can deliver babies in absolute anonymity. These babies become wards of the state, which records them as having been "born to" their eventual adoptive parents. But anonymous delivery has lately become controversial. Adults with no prospect of identifying their biological parents have protested, formed pressure groups and lobbied the National Assembly for recognition that their ignorance of their origins constitutes a violation of rights.And the solution to the problem of secrecy . . . is American-style secrecy. Sigh.
France's participation in international children's rights agreements - such as the 1989 Convention of New York (Xetra: A0DKRK - news) , which established a child's right to know his parents - has also put anonymous delivery under a cloud. In 2003 it only narrowly survived (by a vote of 10-7) a suit in the European Court of Human Rights. It was partly by championing the rights of those born "sous X" that Ségolène Royal, the Socialist candidate in the 2007 presidential elections, rose to national prominence as minister of families earlier in the decade. This month Brigitte Barèges, a member of parliament for the ruling UMP party, submitted a report to the prime minister urging that anonymous delivery be replaced with a system that would allow adoptees to know the identity of their birth mothers once they have attained majority.
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Mme Barèges's means of effecting this change is to replace "anonymity" (in which no record is left of the woman's delivery unless she wishes) with "discretion" (in which the state keeps a dossier of the birth under strictest secrecy).
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