The Bundestag decided on Friday to abolish the so-called advertising ban for abortions. The coalition factions of SPD, Greens and FDP as well as the left faction voted for the deletion of criminal law paragraph 219a, while Union and AfD voted against. The paragraph prohibited medical practices and clinics from providing detailed information about the different methods of termination.
The traffic light parties had agreed on the end of paragraph 219a 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”.
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The Germany-wide known Giessen doctor Kristina Hänel was sitting in the visitors’ gallery of the Bundestag at the decisive moment. She was first convicted in 2017 for posting information about abortion methods on her website. On Friday she listened to the debate with a mask and nodded a few times. For Hänel it is a moment of satisfaction, a moment that she had been waiting for in vain for years.
When the decision was announced, tears came to her, the doctor later told the “Spiegel”. “This fight is over… I’m relieved, so infinitely relieved,” she is quoted as saying in the report.
The Green Minister for Women, Lisa Paus, spoke of a “triumph” for women and doctors in Germany. “Today is a great day.” Now the stigmatization of doctors is finally over. Now unintentionally pregnant women could finally have barrier-free access to the information they need.
And then she followed up with a sentence that caused outrage in the Union and AfD: “You also have to talk about paragraph 218.” That would mean making abortions as such unpunishable.
The debate about the paragraph – the actual ban on abortion is in the neighboring paragraph 218 of the penal code – began in 2017 when Hänel defended himself in court against a penalty order.
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.
“I am pleased that the unspeakable paragraph, which caused a lot of mischief, will be part of history,” said Hänel. He made it possible for serious information to be banned under the misnomer of “advertising”, while “any unqualified and misleading statements by non-professionals” were allowed – which anti-abortionists 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 reflection period, 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 of the Bundestag.
The coalition agreement does not contain any statements on main 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.