Mothers of big families challenge Macron’s fertility stance

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. EU leaders meet for a second day on Thursday to discuss migration, cybersecurity and more discussion on stalled Brexit talks. (AP Photo/Francois Walschaerts, Pool)

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is facing criticism from mothers with big families both at home and abroad for comments he made about women and fertility in Africa.

Hundreds of French and American women took offense at a September speech that Macron made at the Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers Summit, when he said a critical issue for African’s population is that women and girls aren’t able choose whether or not to have children — and linked it to a lack of education.

He said: “I always say: ‘Please present me the lady who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight, nine children.”

Macron was trying to emphasize that parenthood should be a choice — especially in poorer parts of Africa. But many women around the world who feel stung by Macron’s choice of words are using the hashtag #postcardsforMacron on social media to criticize him and share photos of their large families.

The hashtag was trending on Twitter in France in recent days, with more than 20,000 posts about the topic on Wednesday and Thursday.

It was not the first time that Macron found himself in hot water over fertility issues. In July 2017, he prompted controversy when he suggested it’s a problem that African women often have “seven or eight children.”

But during a trip to Burkina Faso four months later, he clarified that he was suggesting that some women in Africa don’t have the free will to decide on such issues.

“Are you sure it’s a choice from the girl?” he asked, adding that parenthood “must be a choice, especially for young girls.”

Large families are valued in the West African nation, providing a safety net for parents in their later years. Activists say about half of the girls in Burkina Faso get married before 18.

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