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Abortions in first 12 weeks should be fully legalised in Germany, says commission

Women in Germany now typically require counselling to obtain a legal abortion within the first 12 weeks, with exceptions including for victims of violent crime. There are no time restrictions for abortions if the mother's life is in danger.
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 14:23 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 14:23 IST

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Berlin: Germany should lift all restrictions on abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy but keep its ban on the procedure after foetal viability, around 22 weeks, a government-appointed commission said on Monday.

Women in Germany now typically require counselling to obtain a legal abortion within the first 12 weeks, with exceptions including for victims of violent crime. There are no time restrictions for abortions if the mother's life is in danger.

"The fundamental illegality of abortion in the early phase of pregnancy is untenable," said Liane Woerner, a law professor at Konstanz University and a member of the 18-member panel of experts in medicine, psychology, ethics and law.

"Lawmakers should take action and make these abortions legal and unpunishable."

It will be up to Chancellor Olaf Scholz's centre-left coalition to decide whether to accept the commission's advice.

The commission said it should be up to lawmakers to decide on the rules between the early and late stages of pregnancy.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said there was an "immediate need for action" with regards to women's access to abortions and adequate care for women with unwanted pregnancies, especially in the religiously conservative south of the country.

However, neither Lauterbach nor the justice and family ministers receiving the recommendations alongside him gave a timeline for a draft law.

"What we don't need is another debate that divides society" like in the United States and Poland, he said. "We will discuss in detail and then propose an orderly process for how we as a government and parliament deal with these proposals."

The current legislative period ends in 2025 and some members of the conservative opposition have said they would take any planned reform to the Constitutional Court.

Abortion rights have become a divisive issue among voters in the United States and several European countries.

Poland's 2021 revisions to abortion laws made headlines as conservative policies took root in one of Europe's most devout Catholic countries. Earlier this year, French President Emmanuel Macron said he wants the European Union to guarantee the right to an abortion in its Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In 2022, Germany abolished a Nazi-era law that had prevented doctors who offered termination of pregnancies from disseminating information about the procedure.

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Published 15 April 2024, 14:23 IST

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