Simon, Pierre

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SIMON, PIERRE (1925– ), French physician and politician. Simon was born to a typical Jewish family from Alsace-Lorraine in which rationalism and tradition were combined. After World War ii, he engaged in the two domains of gynecology and endocrinology in which the status and representation of women and life are implied. In 1953, he brought to France from the U.S.S.R. new obstetrical methods of painless childbirth, violently criticized at the times both by the church and the right-wing medical establishment. Despite the fact that in the France of the 1950s regulating birth was still a religious question, Simon introduced contraceptive methods, and notably the intra-uterine device which he named "stérilet." In 1956, he was active in the foundation of French Family Planning, which was aimed at educating medical staff in scientific innovations and progressive ideas regarding childbirth. Gaining the support at first of teachers and Protestants, Family Planning had to overcome the strong opposition of the Communist Party and of the right wing and Church representatives. The fight for contraceptive methods was then linked to political commitment, since the French law of July 1920 criminalized abortion as well as birth control promotion. In 1951, Simon created the Jacobin Club with Ch. Hernu, of the Radical Party, and conducted a public debate at the Commissariat au Plan. Taking into account the fact that French society was not yet ready to accept the idea of birth control, his first struggle was to dissociate the notions of abortion and birth control. In this regard, his Contrôle des Naissances, Histoire, philosophie, morale (1966) was a success, since it led to the passing, in 1967, of the so-called Neuwirth Law, legalizing contraceptive methods in France. He gained support from the Freemasons, in which he was active, and served as a member of several government cabinets. Author of the Simon Report about the French attitudes toward sexuality, known as the "French Kinsey" (1971), Simon was the first to conjoin sociological approaches and political thought in order to rethink sexuality. The legalization of abortion, by the so-called "Veil Law" (see Simone *Veil) enacted in 1975 was the realization of his efforts. As a Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of France (1969–71; 1973–75), Simon initiated a dialogue between the Catholic Church and Masonry – which had previously been anathematized by the Church. During the 1980s he pursued the fight for his ideals and was active in favor of the methods of artificial reproduction, simultaneously involving himself in the rethinking of the period of the end of life in the movement for the "right to die with dignity."

Among other books, he wrote Rapport sur le comportement sexuel des Français (1971), De la vie avant toute chose (1979), and La Franc-Maçonnerie (1997).

[Perrine Simon-Nahum (2nd ed.)]