Time to Rethink Abortion Law?

Comments supporting Women's right to abort a pregnancy
Comments supporting Women's right to abort a pregnancy. Photo © Alice Lucas

On the International Day of Safe Abortion, campaigners demanded a change in the law; the abolition of paragraphs 218 and 219a, comprehensive medical care for all abortions, and free contraception for everyone.

On Tuesday 28th September, International Day of Safe Abortion, under the motto, “It is high time to think about an alternative regulation!” citizens were invited to write their demands for changes in abortion law on the advertising pillar at the corner of Karolinenstraße and Krebsgaße. The action was organised by Hedwig Schouten, Women’s Equality Commissioner for the City of Nuremberg, and Mirjam Dauscher, head of pro familia Nürnberg.

Words written on the pillar include, “Jede frau hat das Recht, selbst zu entscheiden ab un wann eigene kinder gewünscht sind,” (“Every woman has the right to decide for herself when and if she wants her own children,”) and “Könnten Männer schwanger werden wäre Abtreibung längst legal” (“If men could get pregnant, abortion would have long been legal.”). There were also familiar images of the coat hanger with phrases such as, “Never Again,” and “My body my choice” and “No uterus, no opinion.”

Comments supporting Women's right to abort a pregnancy

The Pillar in the Karolinenstraße. Photo © Alice Lucas

At the end of August 2021, the Municipal Women’s Equality Commissioners asked the German Federal Government to abolish paragraphs 218 and 219a of the Criminal Code which states that anyone who aborts a pregnancy illegally can face imprisonment of up to three years or a fine. According to Section 218 of the German Criminal Code, abortions have been a criminal offence since 15th May 1871.

Today, whilst abortion is still illegal, it is not punishable if someone goes through certain steps.

For an abortion to be carried out without punishment, the pregnant person must:

  • have undergone compulsory counselling including a three-day waiting period
  • have the abortion carried out by a doctor
  • the pregnancy must be terminated before the 12th week, unless it was the result of rape or there is a serious medical reason for termination.

All state health insurance companies cover the cost of an abortion if the pregnancy could endanger the physical or mental health of the mother or it is the result of rape. In all cases, insurance covers expenses before the abortion and the doctor’s care before and after the procedure and any treatment for complications.

“Abortion is a women’s right and must not be criminalised! That is why we would be happy if as many people as possible would come by to take part in the campaign and take a stand,” said Hedwig Schouten.

Until 29th March 2019, doctors were prohibited from listing that they offer abortions. They are now able to list that they carry out abortions but they cannot mention how the procedure works or which methods are available. Anyone who offered, announced, or advertised such explanations could be given a fine or up to two years in prison. For more information about how the procedures work, you can visit the website of the Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy.

A revised version of the law allowed some exemptions. Doctors, hospitals or institutions are no longer threatened with prosecution if they only tell people that they carry out abortions. They are still not allowed to inform the public which options are available. In order to inform the public, they must refer patients to information from a competent federal or state authority, an advice center under the Pregnancy Conflict Law, or a medical association.

Unfortunately, because the law is still unclear, the medical procedure for abortions is not often taught in medical schools. As a result, fewer and fewer doctors are offering these services, resulting in pregnant people having to travel further in order to have this procedure carried out by a doctor who has the training to perform abortions. Many doctors who have been performing abortions, a result of the last pro-choice movement, are now reaching retirement age. New doctors are forced to look outside of university and residencies to learn these skills so that they can help people wanting to terminate a pregnancy. Workshops like Papaya Workshop are available to teach gynaecological skills and are supplying doctors with resources so that they can perform abortions.

“To be able to decide independently and freely about one’s own body and one’s own sexuality are particularly important human rights for women and girls. Linked to this is the individual right of a pregnant woman to safely and legally terminate an unwanted pregnancy,” added Hedwig Schouten.

For more information, follow any of the links below.

Co-written by Alice Lucas and Carolina Adams containing information from a Nuremberg Press Release.



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