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 ("pregnancy-conflict counseling"), must take place at a state-approved centre, which afterwards gives the applicant a Beratungsschein ("certificate of counseling").
Legalization of abortion was first widely discussed in Germany during the early 20th century. When Germany became a country in 1871, section 218 of the Constitution outlawed abortion, requiring a penal term for both the woman and the doctor involved. 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. Nazi Germany's eugenics laws liberalized abortion for both Aryan and non-Aryan women. Aryan women could obtain an abortion simply by demonstrating that either parent had an hereditary defect or that the child would be born with a congenital defect. Non-Aryan women were encouraged to contracept and abort, in order to reduce their population.
Cross of Honour of the German 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.
The Cross of Honour of the German Mother (German: Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter), referred to colloquially as the Mutterehrenkreuz (Mother’s Cross of Honour) or simply Mutterkreuz (Mother’s Cross), was a state decoration and civil order of merit conferred by the government of the German Reich to honour a Reichsdeutsche German mother for exceptional merit to the German nation. Eligibility later extended to include Volksdeutsche (ethnic German) mothers from, for example, Austria and Sudetenland, that had earlier been incorporated into the German Reich.
The decoration was conferred from 1939 until 1945 in three classes of order, bronze, silver, and gold, to Reichsdeutsche mothers who exhibited probity, exemplary motherhood, and who conceived and raised at least four or more children in the role of a parent.
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, 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. Abortions are covered by public health insurance.
- "World Abortion Policies 2013". United Nations. 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2014.
- "Abortion and Women's Legal Personhood in Germany 1991". Review of Law and Social Change. 1991. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
- Ferree, Myra Marx (2002). Shaping abortion discourse: democracy and the public sphere in Germany and the United States. Cambridge University Press.
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- Statutory Legislation of the Deutsches Reich: Verordnung des Führers und Reichskanzlers über die Stiftung des Ehrenkreuzes der Deutschen Mutter vom 16. Dezember 1938. Reichsgesetzblatt (RGBI) Teil I, 1938, Nr. 224, Seite 1923 (In English: Statutory Order of the Leader and Chancellor on the establishment of the Cross of Honour of the German Mother of 16 December 1938. Reich Law Gazette (RGBl) Part I, 1938, No. 224, Page 1923).
- Statutory Legislation of the German Reich: Satzung des Ehrenkreuzes der Deutschen Mutter vom 16. Dezember 1938, Reichsgesetzblatt (RGBI) Teil I, 1938, Nr. 224, Seite 1924 (In English: Statute of the Cross of Honour of the German Mother of 16 December 1938, Reichs Law Gazette (RGBl) Part I, 1938, No. 224, Page 1924)
- Statutory Legislation of the German Reich: Durchführungsverordnung zur Verordnung über die Stiftung des Ehrenkreuzes der Deutschen Mutter vom 16. Dezember 1938, Reichsgesetzblatt (RGBI) Teil I, 1938, Seite 1926 (In English: Executive Order to the Statutory Order on the Establishment of the Cross of Honour of the German Mother of 16 December 1938, Reich Law Gazette (RGBl) Part I, 1938, No. 224, Page 1926)
- Wolfgang Benz (2006). Die 101 wichtigsten Fragen - Das Dritte Reich (In English: The 101 most important questions – The Third Reich) (in German). München: Verlag C. H. Beck oHG. ISBN 978-3-406-56849-7.
- Stadtarchiv Solingen (In English: State Archives Solingen): Findbuch (B Burg an der Wupper 1653-1975) RS 188.8.131.52., A. Allgemeine Verwaltung, A.01. Landeshoheitssachen, Kgl. Haus, Ordensverleihungen, Nationalfeiern, 11. Antrag auf Verleihung des Ehrenkreuzes für kinderreiche Mütter, Organisation durch die NS-Volkswohlfahrt 1939-1944 (In English: Index (B Burg an der Wupper 1653-1975) RS 184.108.40.206., A. General Administration, A.01. Matters of Territorial Sovereignty, Royal House, Conferral of Honours, National Days, 11. Application for bestowal of the Cross of Honour for children-rich mothers, Organisation through the NS-Welfare-Office 1939-1944)
- Statutory Legislation of the Deutsches Reich: Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter, Reichsgesetzblatt (RGBl) Teil I, 1938, Nr. 224, Seite 1925, Anlage (Zum Artikel 3 der vorstehenden Satzung) (In English: Cross of Honour of the German Mother, Imperial-(Reichs) Law Gazette (RGBl) Part I, 1938, No. 224, Page 1925, Attachment Exhibit (to Article 3 of the preceding Statute))
- Irmgard Weyrather (PD Dr.) (1993). Muttertag und Mutterkreuz: der Kult um die "deutsche Mutter" im Nationalsozialismus (In English: Mother's Day and Mother's Cross: the cult of the "German Mother" in National Socialism). Geschichte; Die Zeit des Nationalsozialismus (English: History; The era of National Socialism) (in German). Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-596-11517-4.
- Bendel, Carolin. "Die deutsche Frau und ihre Rolle im Nationalsozialismus (English: The German woman and her role in National Socialism)". Drittes Reich; Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft (English: Third Reich; Economy and Society) (in German). Berlin: Arbeitskreis Shoa.de e.V.
- (German) Texts of §218 and §218a, published by the Federal Ministry of Justice in cooperation with a federally controlled commercial legal information provider.
- (English) Translation of §218 ff., published by the Federal Ministry of Justice in cooperation with a federally controlled commercial legal information provider.