It’s almost the end of a long soap opera. This Friday, May 13, German deputies are debating in first reading a text aimed at abolishing paragraph 219a of the penal code which prohibits advertising on abortion. In fact, until 2019, a practitioner risked up to two years in prison if he indicated on his website that he practiced voluntary terminations of pregnancy. Since 2019, it is possible to indicate this, but any other information, on the methods used or the cost for example, remains illegal.
Information or advertising?
This case has been in the media headlines across the Rhine since 2017, when Kristina Hänel, a gynecologist from Giessen, Hesse, was sentenced to a first fine. According to her, informing her patients is a right that has nothing to do with advertising. Since then, this affair has continued to divide the political class.
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Upon coming to power in December 2021, social democrats, ecologists and liberals promised to remove this paragraph which they believe hinders “access to professional medical care and free choice of doctor”. He would also wear “violation of the right to sexual and reproductive self-determination”. The new law thus provides for subjecting abortions to the same advertising rules as those concerning medicines.
A counter-proposal presented by the opposition
This text should be widely adopted by the government majority. The Christian Democratic opposition, however, wants to try everything for everything this Friday, by presenting another text before the Bundestag. The CDU/CSU wants to maintain the illegal nature of abortion advertising, while allowing practitioners to indicate the methods used.
These parties say they want “give a voice to unborn life” and warn of the risks of “trivialization” abortions. “It’s not the same as a cosmetic procedure,” says MP Andrea Lindholz (CSU).
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In Germany, 100,000 abortions are performed each year. A stable and relatively low figure, compared to other countries. The Catholic and Protestant Churches across the Rhine are standing up against this change in legislation. For Georg Bätzing, president of the Episcopal Conference, the new text “cannot claim to be progressive and modern”as advertised by the German government.
Abortions remain illegal, except under certain conditions
One of the fears of the Christian Democrats and the Churches is that the abolition of paragraph 219a opens the way to the deletion of another paragraph of the penal code, 218, which penalizes abortion more broadly. Abolishing the illegality of abortion is precisely what the radical left opposition party Die Linke is asking for. He presents a text to this effect this Friday in the Bundestag.
Across the Rhine, abortions remain illegal, except under certain conditions. Women must therefore initiate the application, attend an interview, obtain approval from a state-recognized family planning organization and not be more than 12 weeks pregnant. These conditions can be relaxed in very specific cases. In the event of rape, the preliminary interview is not required, and in the event of danger for the mother, the IVG can be practiced at any time of the pregnancy.