Germany’s Justice Ministry on Monday proposed a bill to end restrictions on doctors offering information about abortion procedures.
Abortion is technically illegal in Germany, but an exception is made for first trimester abortions if the patient attends a counseling session. The procedure is free.
A 1933 Nazi-era law also prohibits doctors from providing information about abortion procedures. The law has been criticized for making access to abortion more difficult.
“Doctors should also be able to inform the public about abortion without running the risk of criminal prosecution,” German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said on Monday.
How does abortion work in Germany?
Currently, doctors are allowed to inform patients that they provide pregnancy termination services, but cannot provide information on how the various procedures work.
The new law would remove this censorship. Doctors are only allowed to advertise that they even provide such medical services since 2019.
The ruling coalition government had planned to propose such a reform during its coalition talks in November.
The coalition of Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Liberal Democrats (FDP) – of which Justice Minister Buschmann is a member – all endorsed the proposal, so its passage through the Bundestag seems clear.
What is the logic of the proposed reform?
One of the reasons cited for the bill was continued legal uncertainty for healthcare professionals who provide key services. The project also explained that ease of access to abortion procedures varied from country to country.
Buschmann also described the absurd situation where the law allows any random person to post any kind of information about abortions online, but medical professionals cannot.
“The situation of the women affected is difficult enough, we should not make it even more difficult,” the justice minister said in Berlin.
Buschmann added that the abortion law itself would not change. It will remain illegal, but not a punishable offense if done within the first 12 weeks.
An abortion after this period is also not a punishable offense in cases where there is a threat of physical or psychological harm to the mother.
ab/wmr (Reuters, dpa)