The disappearance of Doctor Marie-Andrée LAGROUA WEILL-HALLÉ, at the beginning of 1994, was relatively unnoticed. However, the determining role of this woman in the creation of Planned Parenthood in France could have given rise, at least among those people and in times when we adore commemorations, to recall the most important guidelines of their continuous activism. If nothing happened, it was in fact because this hospital physician realized in 1967, after ten years of militancy, that she had devoted herself to a cause which was not exactly hers. She could have hidden the truth and so deserve public honors, prestige and important positions (she could have been named to the Health Ministry instead of her almost namesake Simone Veil, and her successful books could have entitled her to the French Academy, before the other feminist Marguerite Yourcenar); she could have even strayed silently and so deserve a gratifying honorary position as president of the Red Cross, which was once entitled to Georgina Dufoix, or even, as president of France-USSR, the French embassy at the UNESCO, like Gisèle Halimi. But she did not; when she realized, quite late, that her ideal had been misused in the name of the I.P.P.F.´s ideology and of the racists, eugenicists and libertarian principles, this gave her a start and began to denounce manipulations, in the way like Bernard Nathanson, the promoter of abortion in the United States, did since the moment when he realized that by being in favor of "the woman", he was becoming the murderer of "the child", his second patient.

Happy Maternity

Since her first year at medical college, in the thirties, Marie-Andrée Lagroua realized the severity of the birth problem, and not only of abortion, as an important evening newspaper reports in its obituary. It was the time of the great economic crisis, difficult access to accommodation, high unemployment and little consideration to families, since we had to wait until 1939 to get the first Family Code. Those who were deeply distressed were the young married couples, confronted with both the birth of their children and the selfishness of society. The young student felt deeply the effects of misfortune and injustice connected with the birth problem, and decided to take action in order to find a solution. Doctor Lagroua´s idea was to "satisfy the couple´s wishes concerning the problems of birth, the couple itself and the family; that is to say fertility, sterility, conception, reproduction control, acceptance of ongoing pregnancy "27

She gave this project the name of Happy Maternity, the will to respect the woman´s vocation and the wish to free her from the physical and social tribulations that harm her. We will find next, that contemporary Popes have the same worry and suggest the concept and the practice of"Responsible Paternity".

Dr Lagroua Weill-Hallé`s report on voluntary Maternity to the French Institute in March 1955, had great repercussions and became the start of a campaign that ended in the foundation of the Happy Maternity, the following year.

The philosophical misuse

Since that moment, there were several attempts to misuse Mrs.Weill-Hallé´s ideal and four years later, in 1960, they ended in the affiliation to the International Planned Parenthood Federation, better known as I.P.P.F., its initials in English. This misuse of Mrs.Weill-Hallé´s ideals will be essentially the work of " the Freemasonry women, who contacted M.-A Weill-Hallé, because the support of Freemasonry for the struggle for voluntary maternity is old". (...) In 1956, the Great Feminine Lodge chose to organize its reflection on the woman´s duties and the freedom of conception"(28 )

The members of this society also announced what would be their profound philosophy, the separation of sexuality from reproduction. They "confirm the wish of women and men to feel free to choose whether or not to have children and at the same time, enjoy their sexual life, essential base of the couple´s union." (29).

A dignitary of the French Great Feminine Lodge.
" The negative judgement of the Church on masons associations has remained unchanged because their principles have always been considered as irreconcilable with the Church´s doctrine, and the Church still does not allow joining these associations". [Congregation for the doctrine of faith, 26/10/1983]

This philosophy was later developed by Dr. Pierre Simon, twice Great Master of the French Great Lodge. He was also the director of Robert Boulin´s cabinet, the Health Minister (ministers generally do not choose their directors, these are "recommended" by the Administration; but who recommended Simon, since he did not belong to the Administration?). His tragic death arose several comments and the family refused the idea of a suicide. Simon, then, both, but we can see they go together, the Planned Parenthood vice-president and president of his own medical college, developed this vindication of the Freemasons philosophy in his book "De la vie avant toute chose": "On one hand the affectionate and sexual couple, the procreative woman and the non-parent man (...), on the other hand the society influenced by the physician, who identifies the wish of having a child with the availability of anonymous semen, centralized and governed by a sperm bank. Sexuality will be separate from reproduction and reproduction from paternity". This approach is diametrically opposed to the conceptions of Marie-Andrée Weill-Hallé, who, on the contrary, wants to prevent the physician and the science he represents from replacing the couple.

From contraception to abortion

It is paradoxically the vote of the law authorizing contraception in 1967 that reveals the magnitude of the "misunderstanding" and leads her to resign from the Planned Parenthood and to refuse to be its honorary president. In a letter addressed to the Health Minister, Robert Boulin, in 1969, she observes: "The whole population has taken the change of the law on contraception as a green light, hence its growing demand. A real neurosis seized several circles who translated their anguish into their proposal of courses on sexual education and contraception, without prior training". Aware that "the "Planned Parenthood" terminology has a claiming and malthusian implication, not desirable for our country", she suggested "replacing it, as much as possible, with the Birth problems study" without any ideological connotation. Since October 1968, she even started up a pilot experiment, at CHU La Pitié-Salpêtrière, on women attending a Maternity Hospital, and devoted herself, since the passing of the contraception law, to search for the best ways to meet the population´s demand from a Mental Hygienic perspective.

She was the French observer at the International Congress of Planned Parenthood at Dacca, Pakistan, from 28 January to 5 February 1969, and she was in charge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs mission. The congress´s subject was the best ways to apply a planned parenthood in the Third World and the best current evaluating techniques. Four hundred participants from eighteen developing countries and nine industrialized countries were gathered, thirty eight of whom were representatives of the United States. Among them, there were five representatives of the State Department and ten of renowned universities. The organizers, essentially anglo-saxons, homogeneous in their ideology, were flanked by a large American representation in the sixteen international organizations which participated in that Congress, particularly the Ford Foundation (12 delegates), the Population Council (16 delegates) and the Committee for the population crisis (6 delegates).

Mrs. Weill-Hallé remarked that"the counselors of the Family Planning in the Third World are just agents of contraceptive propaganda" paid according to how many individuals they persuade". But the results are not enough to reduce birth rate to the eyes of these organizations, "the program of which seems to have become absolutely urgent even paroxysmal ". "Also many reports advance for the first time, a new way to reduce birth rate: the involuntary provoked abortion". Dr.Malcom Potts, general secretary of the I.P.P.F. medical committee does not hesitate to affirm that "contraception and abortion are not competitive but complementary". Dr. Sushila Gore of the I.P.P.F. medical committee suggests an urgent plan of action, which she considers the only possible solution, in two stages: abortion and sterilization, then contraception and education on planned parenthood, abortion being always the remedy in case of: failure of contraception, ignorance of contraception, lack of information or absence of a Planned Parenthood service.

Some months later, in September, under the same conditions, Dr. Weill-Hallé attended in Budapest, the VIth I.P.P.F.Conference for Europe,North Africa and the Near East about the following subject: social demography and medical responsibility. There she noticed that: "involuntary provoked abortion is considered from now on, as a means to fight against a very high birth rate" and "for the first time, with great surprise, the surgical abortion of contraception". Now"so far, at the I.P.P.F. congress, the headlinecontraceptive means was different from that of abortion; that change of attitude is obvious". In the discussion, the I.P.P.F. bureau representative announced that"abortion should be considered as means of contraception". The congress drew from its papers" two immediate actions: the systematic expansion of Planned Parenthood programs to all population and the liberalization of laws on abortion". Dr. Lagroua Weill-Hallé remarked in her report to the minister: "If such conclusions were taken up in France and from the perspectives of the Congress, they would seriously engage the future of the population". We know what happened and what happens.

Finally, one year later, in October 1970, in Tokyo, Dr.Lagroua Weill-Hallé represented France again in the IInd I.P.P.F. congress for the West-Pacific region, about the general subject: Planned parenthood and the social change. She noted again that"the accent was put on the failure of contraceptive programs and the priority was attached to mass abortion. (...), fetus destruction is then adopted by the International Planned Parenthood as its plan of action, the main remedy for overpopulation. The allusions made here and there to democracy, the respect for life, human dignity, human rights and women´s liberation have an electoral aim that can only depreciate the value of the whole paper, unless this is its real magnitude".

Dr.Lagroua Weill-Hallé presented the summary of this paper at the États Généraux de la Femme, in Versailles, on November 22, 1970, in her speech: " The true or false women´s liberation through contraception and abortion".

About this subject, Maurice Schumann wrote to her: this paper is" absolutely remarkable and the most intelligent and honest I have ever heard. (...) This objective file refers to the whole argumentation which has been your base for planned parenthood and you lucidly take on its implications".

The speech starts as follows:

"In 1956, when we contributed together with a few friends, to Planned Parenthood promotion in France, we believed we were working for the welfare of couples and women´s liberation. At least, we believed so.
However, we are witnessing a demagogic exploitation of the same idea, that can only offer to women a false idea of liberation.
So we find ourselves in France in the middle of the electoral campaign for the liberalization of the law on abortion, even though contraception has not been implemented neither in the texts of the application of the law nor in the pharmacies, because in fact, it is not even in their minds.
Campaigns for the liberalization of abortion are actually increasing worldwide to attempt to make up for the general failure of contraception application measures and to hide it.
Since different organizations and physicians took over the contraception problem, this led the population to a collective resignation, instead of awakening their responsibility, and it is natural that contraception assumed by othersfor example by the physicianfinally ends in abortion claimed as a legitimate vindication addressed to the physician who has failed his contraception and who then takes on to the end, the responsibility of refusing the child . The "woman´s right" to abortion is an expression that, in fact, only ratifies her slavery".

In the future, we will never hear about Dr Marie-Andrée Lagroua Weill-Hallé again.

Back to table of contents - Next chapter