On Friday in Berlin, the Bundestag approved the abolition of the advertising ban for abortions. Criminal law paragraph 219a led to doctors being prosecuted and convicted because they had published information about abortions in their practice.
The traffic light parties had agreed on the end of the paragraph in the coalition agreement. “Doctors should be able to provide public information about abortions without having to fear criminal prosecution. We are therefore deleting § 219a of the Criminal Code,” it says. The SPD, Greens and FDP are also committed to making abortion part of medical education and training and part of “reliable health care”.
The debate about the paragraph – the actual ban on abortion is in sister paragraph 218 of the penal code – began in 2017 when the Giessen doctor Kristina Hänel defended herself in court against a penalty order because she informed on her website that she was offering abortions. She was followed by colleagues who were also affected by the ban; some had already had to take many fines when abortion opponents, who see themselves as lifeguards, reported them for violating § 219a.
Kristina Hänel was relieved the day before the decisive meeting: “If the government draft is passed, an important step towards freedom of information for those affected by abortion will be taken,” she wrote in a statement. “I am pleased that the unspeakable paragraph, which caused so much mischief, will be part of history.”
He made it possible for serious information to be banned under the false label “advertising”, while “any unqualified and misleading statements by non-professionals” were allowed – which opponents of abortion used extensively to burden the women concerned even more .
At the same time, Hänel warned that the other promises made by the traffic light should be fulfilled: “Deficits in training, research and teaching must be made good; Counseling centers and implementing institutions must be protected from so-called “sidewalk harassment” as well as from intimidation, threats and inadmissible Holocaust comparisons; the range of care, both outpatient and inpatient, must be ensured; coverage of the costs of prevention and abortion treatment if prevention has failed must be ensured; the lifting of the obligation to provide advice and the prescribed period for reflection, as requested by the WHO, must be in favor of voluntary advice,” said Hänel in her statement. She followed the debate from the visitors’ gallery in the Bundestag.
The coalition agreement does not contain any statements on the mother paragraph 218, which has been contested for more than 150 years. Medical associations such as “Doctors for Choice” are again calling for its abolition. Leonie Kühn, gynecologist and co-founder of the association, told the Tagesspiegel in the spring that the 219a was just “part of a problem that goes much deeper”. It is about the criminalization of abortion as a whole.
As a result, “abortions are taboo and stigmatized, both in society and in medical training – who wants to teach something that’s in the penal code?” target”.