Pro-choicers in Germany who believed they were making progress towards abolishing a 30s-era anti-abortion law have faced a new challenge in their fight as key supporters from Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) back away.
Leaders from the party had been in support of striking a law that makes it illegal for doctors to provide information and resources on abortions, but as they entered into the heavily negotiated coalition agreement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic (CDU) party, the priority to push forward with the change was dropped.
Under section 219a of the criminal code, medical professionals can face a fine or up to two years in prison if they publically “offer, announce, or advertise” abortion services. Feminist groups have vocally objected to the decades-old law for years, but it wasn’t until a doctor decided to push the law by breaking it in November of 2017 that the momentum built up to change the law.
medical professionals can face a fine or up to two years in prison
Kristina Hänel, a gynecologist practicing just outside of Frankfurt with more than 30 years of experience performing abortions, refused to pay a €6,000 ($7400) fine after advertising abortion services on her website. Instead, she decided to go against the judges ruling and opted to keep the information online and launch a petition to get rid of the outdated law. The petition, which launched in December, quickly received more than 150,000 signatures and was then moved into the German parliament.
During a parliament debate on February 22, it was pretty clear where each party stood. Members of the CDU and Germany’s extremely conservative Alternative for Germany (AfD) were opposed to the idea of changing it, whereas members of the SPD, Free Democrats, Greens, and the Left argued that the archaic law needed to go.
Now with the SPD announcing that they no longer want to put the idea up for a vote, they have effectively killed the hopes of changing the law.
Germany, despite having made quite a few progressive moves in recent history, still takes a conservative and somewhat confusing stance on abortion. It is still considered a crime under the criminal code to have an abortion, but as long as a woman has the abortion in the first 12 weeks of her pregnancy, the government will not enforce the law.
Though there are some strings attached to not being prosecuted. Women do need to have a counseling session with a doctor and then wait at least three days to think it over before the procedure can be done, and unless the pregnancy is being terminated due to a health risk, women must pay for the entire procedure out of pocket.