Germany agrees to keep Nazi-era abortion law in history

Germany parliament on Friday agreed to repeal a Nazi-era law that limits the information doctors and clinics can provide about abortion.

One of the most controversial sections of the Criminal Code, paragraph 219a, prohibits the “propaganda” of abortion, a crime punishable by “imprisonment for up to two years or a fine.”

The decision to finally leave this law in history was taken almost eight decades after its adoption in 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler came to power.

“The time has come,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann told parliament.

It is “absurd” and “no longer in step with the times” that doctors do not have the right to give complete information about abortions, and “every troll and conspiracy theorist” is free to express his thoughts about abortion.

Bushman’s ruling coalition of Free Democrats, as well as the Social Democrats and the Greens, committed to repeal the law when they agreed to rule together.

While the law belongs to Germany’s darkest history, it was still enforced until recently, with courts punishing medical practitioners for providing information about abortions online.

In some cases, the sites offered a simple statement that a gynecologist performed abortions, without any details.

Doctors sued in recent years include Christina Hänel, a general practitioner from Giessen in western Germany, who became the face of a campaign to repeal the law after she was fined 6,000 euros ($6,550).

Her legal battle caused a media storm and brought attention to the law.

– Obstacles remain –

In June 2019, two Berlin gynecologists, Bettina Haber and Verena Weyer, were fined 2,000 euros for the same violation.

Internet-organized anti-abortion militants are behind most of the lawsuits filed against medical professionals, and one activist was recently convicted for comparing abortion to the Holocaust.

Under pressure from such campaigners, many practitioners have removed all relevant information from their websites and refused to be included in the family planning lists shared by women who wish to terminate their pregnancies.

In Germany, a woman who wants to have an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy must undergo a mandatory consultation at an official center.

The purpose of this dialogue is to “encourage the woman to continue with the pregnancy,” even if in the end the choice was hers.

After the consultation, patients must go through a “reflection period” for three days.

Approximately 100,000 abortions are performed in Germany each year, although the number has declined in recent years.

According to a number of gynecologists, this topic is still taboo in Germany and can be an obstacle course for patients, especially in traditionally Catholic Bavaria.

In parts of the vast southern state, no hospital offers this procedure, and many people choose to cross the border into Austria instead.