Englischer Text zu Abtreibung, der „Lebensschutz“-Bewegung und Pränataldiagnostik auf illiberalism.org, 10.01.2023
The “pro-life” movement is part of the extreme right that has gained momentum in the U.S. due to the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule Roe v. Wade (1973), which granted women with unwanted pregnancies the right to an abortion. The German “pro-life” movement desires to make a similar impact but simultaneously tries to hide this motivation to appear moderate. Leaders often claim that they only push for a real abiding of the law, not for a tightening of it.
This might seem moderate, even liberal from the outside. However, Germany’s regulation of abortion is particularly complicated and, of course, the Right’s claim is not entirely true but is rather an acknowledgment of the political atmosphere surrounding the topic. Although they wage a cultural war on women’s and LGBTIQ rights, the leaders of the Right try to pretend that they are only fighting for the rights of “unborn babies,” people with disabilities, and mothers-to-be. So, let’s dig deeper into the situation in Germany, the discourse around disability and prenatal testing, and the rhetoric of the “pro-life” movement.
There are many myths around German abortion laws, with most people believing that abortion is legal, when in fact this is only true in a few rare cases. Even on a progressive website mapping abortion laws, Germany is listed as abortion is possible “on request.” People with more insight still believe that the current law is a “good compromise” that serves everyone.
Abortion is generally illegal and punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to three years under Section 218 of Germany’s Criminal Code. Until the 12th week of pregnancy, a pregnant person can seek an abortion without being punished after compulsory counselling and a three-day waiting period. These kinds of abortions are “unlawful but not punishable.”
The obligation to seek counselling before an abortion is regulated in Section 219 of the Criminal Code and specified in the Pregnancy Conflict Act, but their formulations contradict each other. The Criminal Code states that “counselling serves to protect unborn life” and should “encourage the woman to continue the pregnancy,” while the Conflict of Pregnancy Act states that counselling “serves the protection of unborn life” but should be “free from any bias” and “encourage and inspire understanding, not instruct or patronize.”