BERLIN — The Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, voted June 24 to remove the criminal code ban on advertising abortions.
Before the vote, Section 219a prohibited the offer, announcement or advertisement of abortions if done for commercial purposes or in a grossly offensive manner, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA. Some doctors had been prosecuted for offering information on abortions.
The ruling coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats, which has been in power since December, drafted legislation to ensure two things: on the one hand, doctors who perform abortions within the legal boundaries should not have to expect criminal prosecution in the future if they provide public information about the procedure and methods of an abortion. On the other hand, women considering an abortion should have easier access to this information.
The draft bill also aims to prevent lurid advertising for abortions. Convictions of doctors who have violated Section 219a since 1990 are to be overturned.
KNA reported that, before the vote, leaders of Catholic and Protestant churches had voiced opposition to the ban being lifted.
Bishop Georg Bätzing, president of the German bishops’ conference, said the amendments would reduce the protection of unborn life and could “not claim to be progressive and modern.” Similar criticism came from Martin Dutzmann, representative of the Protestant Church in Germany.
The body representing Catholic laypeople in Germany also rejected the legislation, KNA reported.
“Maintaining the concept of protection in dual advocacy for the pregnant woman and the unborn child continues to have the highest priority,” said Irme Stetter-Karp, president of the Central Committee of German Catholics. At the same time, the committee was committed to ensuring legal safeguards for doctors, she added.
“We need to increase our efforts … we also need to do what we can to support mothers and their children,” she said.