The new Prime Minister Jean Marc Ayrault was until recently unknown to most foreigners and even to many French people. Prior to his appointment by President François Hollande as Prime Minister, Jean Marc Ayrault was the chair of the socialist parti’s MPs at the French National Assembly since 1997. Some in the conservative opposition have questioned his integrity before his appointment as Prime Minister after being sentenced for favoritism in 1997 while he was the mayor of Nantes, even though there was no personal embezzlement.
The personal views of the Prime Minister on autism were unknown until a recent letter dated May 2012 surfaced on Facebook. In this letter sent to a lacanian psychoanalyst organization UFORCA, Jean Marc Ayrault opposes the bill of Daniel Fasquelle which would have banned the use of psychoanalysis in autism. He states that “it is not the place of legislators to decide in favour of one therapeutic practice over another. Its role is more to ensure that each person has access to the treatment and therapies best suited to their case. This principle is even more important in the case of autism, given that the disorder manifests itself differently in each person”.
This letter reproduced below has several important points:
- The Prime Minister views autism as an illness, not as a disability. The wording clearly refers to therapeutics, which, in France, include psychoanalysis,
- The Prime Minister is unlikely to attack the use of psychoanalysis in autism, given his position on the bill,
- Individualization of care and accessibility will be the focus of his policy.
By doing so, Prime Minister Ayrault preserves the status-quo and preserves the control of health professionals and institutions over autism viewed as a “disease”. Interestingly, the letter never uses the word “education”.
Translation of the Letter of Jean Marc Ayrault to UFORCA, dated May 15, 2012
Madam General Secretary,
You have told me about your opposition to the proposed law which aims to end the practice of psychoanalysis as a therapy for people with autism, for which I thank you.
I note with interest your observations on this text, submitted by a member from the majority party, and will pass them on to my socialist colleagues who are members of the Social Affairs Committee. It should be noted that the parliamentary calendar is so full that the majority will not be able to examine this proposed law before the end of the session.
First of all we do not subscribe to the method which consists of presenting such a text with absolutely no prior consultation. In the case of the text you mention, this leads to tension between professionals working in the treatment of sufferers and their families. The fact that autism has been declared the national cause by this government does not hide the delays which have built up in the diagnosis, treatment and support of autism.
If it is the responsibility of the public authorities to act on the conclusions of the scientific studies and their evaluations which have been drawn up by health agencies, it is not the place of legislators to decide in favour of one therapeutic practice over another. Its role is more to ensure that each person has access to the treatment and therapies best suited to their case. This principle is even more important in the case of autism, given that the illness manifests itself differently in each person.
Member of Parliament
Mayor of Nantes
President of the socialist, radical, citizen and diverse left grouping
French National Assembly
- July 10, 2012: Following a comment, we replaced disorder by illness as it was clearly a translation mistake regarding the intent of Jean-Marc Ayrault