Germany’s new government will scrap a Nazi-era abortion law that banned doctors from providing women with information about abortion.
The move has been praised by activists who have argued for decades that this law hindered women’s ability to make decisions on the matter.
Germany’s justice minister Marco Buschmann said that after nearly 90 years, doctors will now no longer fear prosecution if they provide information about abortions.
Buschmann is part of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), and said that it made no sense that information about abortions was easily, readily, freely available online but that people who are actually qualified to discuss it were banned from providing information. He said that throwing out the law means only factual information will be provided by real professionals, rather than allowing falsehoods and lies to shape decisions online.
Paragraph 219a in the penal code forbids “advertising for pregnancy termination.” In the past few years, right-wing groups made concentrated efforts on any doctor who provided or posted factual details about the procedure online.
The most high-profile case was about a general practitioner doctor Kristina Hanel, who lost an appeal against a fine of 6,000 euros that was given to her in 2017 for offering abortion advice to patients.
Hanel on Tuesday welcomed the announcement that the Nazi-era law was finally being scrapped, saying that she was joyful and grateful and that it had hung like a sword over doctors who were forced to live in fear of prosecution for even merely discussion options with their own patients.
Buschmann said that the situation for affected women is already difficult enough and that the government does not need to make it even worse.
Abortions are technically still illegal in the country, but they are allowed in certain circumstances and must be carried out within the first three months of the pregnancy. Women must receive counseling, and it’s up to the doctor to check that this has been carried out.
Abortions are not considered punishable offenses if the pregnant person’s life is in danger, or if the pregnancy could cause severe impairment, whether physically or psychologically.