BONN, Germany — Germany’s Catholic bishops voiced opposition to a stand taken by the Federation of German Catholic Youth in its call to end the ban on advertising for abortions.
Auxiliary Bishop Johannes Wüebbe, of Osnabrück, Germany, commissioner for youth affairs for the German bishops’ conference, said April 6 that he did not share the federation’s call to permit advertisements for abortion, reported the German Catholic news agency KNA.
“For me, protection of unborn life has unrestricted priority,” he said, stressing that assistance for pregnant women in conflict situations was a core part of the church’s services.
Paragraph 219a of Germany’s criminal code known currently spells out punitive measures for public advertising offering abortion services.
The youth federation, known by its German initials BDKJ, publicly supported lifting the ban. The organization’s chairwoman, Daniela Hottenbacher, said the law reflected “an image of women that we firmly reject. Women are very capable of making a considered decision.”
The BDKJ also criticized the fact that “in some regions of Germany, termination of pregnancy is no longer accessible. Pregnant women thereby come under increasing time pressure, which makes it difficult for a decision for or against an abortion.”
Paragraph 219a prohibits offering, announcing or advertising abortions for financial gain, or doing so in a grossly offensive manner. People who violate it can face up to two years in prison.
In March, Germany’s new coalition government spoke out in favor of abolishing the ban on abortion advertising. Any such change is subject to approval by the German parliament.
The bishops also criticized the government’s move.
“Insofar as there is a need for reform, we continue to believe that a revision of Section 219a of the German Criminal Code is the better way forward,” said Bishop Georg Bätzing of Limburg, Germany, bishops’ conference president.
He expressed concern that lifting of the advertising ban would reduce protection for unborn children as enshrined in the German constitution.
While abortion is technically illegal in Germany, it goes unpunished under certain conditions.
Bätzing also said that a pregnant woman in a crisis situation was dependent on serious, reliable and neutral information, adding that an abortion should not appear as an everyday, “normal procedure.”
Meanwhile, Benjamin Strasser, undersecretary of the Justice Ministry, has defended the proposal to abolish paragraph 219a. In Berlin April 7, he stressed that unborn life can be protected even without threatening punishment for advertising of abortion.