Germany taking steps towards removing Nazi-era abortion law

german abortion
MUNICH, GERMANY - MAY 10, 2014: Anti-Abortion Demonstration with participants carrying Christian Crosses and banners. Hundreds protested peacefully in Munich © Steven Jones

German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, is attempting to overturn a Nazi-era law forbidding medical professionals to share information on abortion procedures

The topic of abortion is a convoluted one within medical circles in Germany, with many medical professionals around the country unsure on where they stand when it comes to proving abortion information to their patients.

Abortion status in Germany

During the Nazi rule of Germany in the 20th century, abortion rules were put in place aligning with hostile ideals. At the time, German eugenic laws punished abortions for Aryan women – calling it a sin. However, Nazi law permitted abortion on demographics deemed lesser than Aryan. During World War two, it became a capital offence to perform an abortion, or even share information about it.

Since then a number of changes have been made – but there are more left to go.

Abortion is technically illegal in Germany today, however doctors are able to perform an abortion on patients during the first trimester (permitted the patient attends a therapy session).

Yet, doctors are still not at liberty to provide information surrounding what the procedure entails.

New changes

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann has presented a draft law that has the potential to overturn the Nazi-era law, forbidding doctors from providing adequate information about abortions to patients.

Buschmann said that “doctors should be able to inform the public about abortion without running the risk of criminal prosecution.”

Reasons for the planned reform

The ongoing legal uncertainty for medical professionals in Germany has caused many issues over the decades. In passing this draft it would unify abortion law across the country, without geographic uncertainty.

Alongside this geographic access issue, Justice Minister Buschmann pointed out an absurd loophole in the previous law. The loophole meant any person had the right to spread information on abortion both in person and online, yet a medical professional would face potential prosecution for the same act.

Although this legislation change would not impact the the rules on German abortion itself, it would still be a potentially big step for women’s and people with wombs rights in Germany. Abortion would still be legal up to 12 weeks or after, if there is a threat of physical or psychological harm to the mother.

The change would simply ensure adequate healthcare information for all across Germany and ensuring existing reproductive rights.

Speaking in Berlin, Buschmann further commented: “The situation for the affected women is difficult enough — we shouldn’t make it even more difficult.”


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