Abortion in Germany

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Abortion in Germany is permitted in the first trimester upon condition of mandatory counseling, and later in pregnancy in cases of medical necessity. In both cases a waiting period of 3 days is required. The counseling, called Schwangerschaftskonfliktberatung ("unwanted-pregnancy counseling"), must take place at a state-approved centre, which afterwards gives the applicant a Beratungsschein ("certificate of counseling").

As of 2010, the abortion rate was 6.1 abortions per 1000 women aged 15–44 years.[1]


Legalization of abortion was first widely discussed in Germany during the early 20th century. During the Weimar Republic, such discussion led to a reduction in the maximum penalty for abortion, and in 1926 — by a court's decision — to the legalization of abortion in cases of grave danger to the life of the mother.

In Nazi Germany, the penalties for abortion were increased again. In 1943, providing an abortion to an "Aryan" woman became a capital offense. Abortion was permitted if the foetus was deformed or disabled.[2][3]

After World War II, abortion remained broadly illegal throughout both Germanys: West Germany retained the legal situation of 1927, while East Germany passed a slightly more encompassing set of exceptions in 1950. The legal requirements in the West were extremely strict, and often led women to seek abortions elsewhere, particularly in the Netherlands.

East Germany legalized abortion on demand until twelve weeks of pregnancy in 1972, in the Volkskammer's only non-unanimous vote ever in the first forty years of its existence. After West Germany followed suit in 1974, its new law was struck down in 1975 by the Constitutional Court as inconsistent with the human rights guarantee of the constitution. It held that the unborn has a right to life, that abortion is an act of killing, and that the fetus deserves legal protection throughout its development. Nevertheless, the legal opinion strongly hinted that increasing the number of situations in which abortion was legal might be constitutional.

In 1976, West Germany legalized abortion up until twelve weeks of pregnancy — for reasons of medical necessity, sexual crimes, or serious social or emotional distress — if approved by two doctors, and subject to counseling and a three-day waiting period. In 1989, a Bavarian doctor was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, and 137 of his patients were fined for failing to meet the certification requirements.

The two laws had to be reconciled after reunification. A new law was passed by the Bundestag in 1992, permitting first-trimester abortions on demand, subject to counseling and a three-day waiting period, and permitting late-term abortions when the physical or psychological health of the woman is seriously threatened. The law was quickly challenged in court by a number of individuals — including Chancellor Helmut Kohl — and by the State of Bavaria. The Constitutional Court decided a year later to maintain its earlier decision that the constitution protected the fetus from the moment of conception, but stated that it is within the discretion of parliament not to punish abortion in the first trimester,[citation needed] provided that the woman had submitted to state-regulated counseling intended to discourage termination and protect unborn life. Parliament passed such a law in 1995.[4] Abortions are covered by public health insurance.


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