The abortion law in Germany is expected to undergo a change this year.
Ever since the abortion law in Germany was enacted, doctors could not provide any relevant information to patients interested in getting an abortion. Doing so is punished by the imposition of certain penalties and jail time. This provision in the law has been in place for almost 90 years, ever since the era of the Nazis in the year 1933.
During the time of the Nazis, Paragraph 219a was created for the purpose of supposedly protecting the nation. They believed that getting an abortion was equivalent to committing treason at that time.
The aforementioned condition has been long opposed by activists. It withholds pertinent information from women and makes them unable to make informed choices. Obtaining the necessary information from medical doctors would have been helpful because these doctors have the credibility to guide them in their decision-making process.
A Win for Pro-Abortion Groups: Paragraph 219a will be Repealed
Marco Buschmann, the Federal Minister of Justice, said that Paragraph 219a of the penal code will be removed. Paragraph 219a states that “offering, announcing or promoting abortions” are prohibited.
He supports this change because the provision goes against rational thought. Women can utilize the internet, which can sometimes be unreliable, to obtain information about abortion but cannot receive it from medical doctors who are the most knowledgeable about it.
However, groups that oppose abortion did not meet this change with the same enthusiasm. They claim that the removal of Paragraph 219a will make women more likely to undergo abortions.
In response, Marco Buschmann said that doctors will only be allowed to give information that is based on science. Doctors will not be allowed to promote any other information that goes against medical knowledge.
He said that “the situation for the affected woman is difficult enough. We don’t want to make it even more difficult”.
Doctors proceed with much caution and fear when abortion is discussed with patients. Any information that they share can be used against them, as backed up by the abortion law in Germany.
The most controversial case involved a general physician named Dr. Kristina Hanel. In 2017, a case was filed against her for providing advice on abortion to the patients she handled. She lost the appeal and was penalized with 6,000 euros.
When she heard the news about the change in the abortion law in Germany, she happily received it. She was thankful for this progress because doctors do not have to worry anymore about the law that seemed as if it “hung like Damocles sword”. Physicians can now safely provide the appropriate health information for the patient’s condition.
Not all hospitals offer abortions. Those that are managed or supported by the Catholic church do not offer such services because it goes against their beliefs.
Other factors in the field of reproductive medicine will also be developed. A commission will be created to look into enhancing the available support for couples that have challenges with bearing children.
Some Groups Want Paragraph 219a of the Abortion Law in Germany to be Retained
Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker, an MP for the Christian Democratic Union, did not agree that there were any difficulties experienced by women in obtaining information about abortion. She said that “we’re talking about the mother’s right to self-determination, as well as about the life of the unborn child”.
She does not believe that Paragraph 219a prevents women from seeking medical advice from doctors because it already distinguishes between reliable and scientifically proven information from information communicated solely for the purpose of advertising.
At the same time, doctors should not have any trouble providing information about abortion. The law is very clear on what they can and cannot do.
Rather, that condition in the abortion law in Germany seeks to prevent the promotion of abortion intended for the purpose of gaining a profit. Abortions should not be advertised as if they were like cosmetic procedures or eye lasers.
As such, removing this paragraph from the law does no good for the unborn child.
The Catholic Church in Germany shares the same sentiment. They believe that the removal of the aforementioned regulation leaves unborn children unprotected.
The Damage of Paragraph 219a to Doctors and Patients
As previously mentioned, Dr. Kristina Hanel was one of the doctors who had the regulation used against her.
One word on her website ended up costing her 6,000 euros in fines. Her website included abortion in her list of services, along with family planning and sex counseling. Pro-life groups coming from the “Never Again” initiative decided to file a case against Dr. Hanel. They argued that listing abortion as a service is equivalent to advertising it, which is against the law.
Dr. Hanel was sued for the same violation twice—once in 2008 and again in 2017. In 2008, she was not fined. The officials handling her case defended that she just did not know that listing abortion as a service goes against the law.
After that incident, she still refused to remove the word “abortion” from her website. Because of this, a similar case was filed against her in 2017. The court then decided to hold her guilty of going against the law.
Dr. Hanel isn’t the only doctor facing the same predicament. Two gynecologists, namely Dr. Natascha Nicklaus and Dr. Nora Szasz, also suffered from the same accusations in 2018. They posted abortion as one of the outpatient surgeries that they perform.
The doctors believe that there is nothing wrong with listing abortion as one of their services.
Dr. Hanel says that she wants women to have easy access to information about abortion on the internet. This is because everyone is utilizing that platform nowadays. Women should not have to make use of anti-abortion websites just to know where they can get such services.
These anti-abortion websites compare abortion to the holocaust, believing it to be “the mass murder of unborn children”.
This adds stress to an already challenging ordeal. It puts women at risk and makes them more likely to find other ways to get an abortion, even if it means doing something that can be harmful to them.
What is the Current Abortion Law in Germany?
Abortion in Germany is only allowed under certain conditions. Specifically, it is only legal when the pregnancy poses a threat to the life of the mother or when the pregnancy might result in the development of severe physical or psychological conditions for the mother.
Pregnancies brought about by sexual abuse are also legally permitted to be terminated.
Women who qualify for these conditions can only terminate their pregnancy within the first 12 weeks. They are also required to obtain counseling at least three days before they undergo abortion.
The counseling requirement for mothers who plan to get an abortion was created to protect the life of the unborn child. During this session, women are encouraged to continue their pregnancy and make them consider living with and raising a child. At any given point throughout the pregnancy, it is not only the mother who has a right to life. Rather, the child who is unborn also has the right to its own life in relation to its mother. Providing counseling can help the mother make the right decision for both herself and her unborn child.
Section 219a tackles the regulations on advertising abortion. It states that:
- Whoever publicly, in a meeting or by disseminating material, for a pecuniary benefit or in a grossly offensive manner, offers announces or extols –
- Their own or others’ services for terminating pregnancies or supporting such terminations or
- The means, objects or procedures which are suitable for terminating pregnancies, making reference to this suitability or
- Publishes statements of such a nature incurs a penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine
There are certain conditions wherein section 219a is not applicable, such as during counseling sessions conducted as a requirement prior to the procedure.
Only medical doctors are legally allowed to perform abortion, and they should obtain consent from the patient before the procedure is done.
However, medical doctors who perform abortions without providing proper counsel to patients on the reasons for advising such a procedure; explaining to them its process, what to expect afterwards, and risks; and, not ensuring the term of the pregnancy through medical examination prior to conducting the procedure, will be faced with penalties.
The removal of such a restricting regulation allows doctors to more comfortably provide information to patients. Doctors will not be sanctioned for doing their jobs, and patients will have access to reliable information.