Delete, reform or retain?

Delete, reform or retain?

It was pro-life activists who kicked off the debate on the abortion advertising ban with an ad. Now the Greens and the Left would prefer to abolish the paragraph altogether.

The case continues to cause a stir: In November, the district court in Giessen sentenced the doctor Kristina Hanel because she had made unauthorized advertising for abortions on her homepage. Via a link on her website, she provided women with information on abortion. In a pdf file available to anyone, interested parties received primarily legal and medical information. Later, the doctor offered only that further information on abortion would be sent by e-mail.

The relevant pas relied on by the court is section 219a of the criminal code. It prohibits "offering, announcing or advertising abortions" for financial gain or if this is done in a "grossly offensive manner". Although it came into force in 1933, its conception dates back to the time of the Weimar Republic.

"Paragraph must go"

Politics took up the case. Initially, it was members of the Green and Left parties who wanted to back the doctor, and all of a sudden saw an opportunity to scrap what they saw as an outdated Section 219a altogether. It is "simply wrong and must go away," says the Green Party member of parliament Renate Kunast.

Opponents of this position – especially from the ranks of the CDU/CSU – warn that the laboriously achieved compromise on the abortion ie should not be called into question again. And with it, Section 218, which states that abortion is illegal but remains exempt from punishment under certain conditions.

Debate in the Bundestag

On Thursday, the Bundestag will debate whether the relevant paragraph in the penal code should be reformed, deleted or – as the Union wants – retained.

Politically, the fronts are no longer as clear as they were a few weeks ago: Only the Greens and the Left are now in favor of complete deletion. They each want to introduce their own bill for this purpose. The FDP also has its own draft. This provides for no deletion, but only a restriction of the advertising ban.

The SPD, which had initially spoken out in favor of abolition, now no longer wants to introduce its draft. SPD member of parliament Eva Hogl hopes for an agreement with the CDU/CSU, which wants to keep the paragraph in its existing form. The AfD also sees no need for change.

Catholic Church warns against deletion

The Catholic Church also pleads not to shake the protection concept and to "break an important pillar out of it" by deleting paragraph 219a, as the deputy director of the Catholic office, Katharina Jestaedt, puts it. She sees the danger that, if it is dropped, "old fault lines" will be revived and abortion will become more and more a "normal" service provided by the doctor. Jestaedt emphasizes that comprehensive information is guaranteed via the existing advisory concept.

The Central Committee of German Catholics argues similarly and warns against deletion. If the ban on advertising were removed, abortion would be put on a par with other medical services. Also the Catholic German Women's Association has positioned itself accordingly.

Protestant church split

The positions of the Protestant Church, on the other hand, differ: while the chairman of the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany (EKD), Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, spoke out against the abolition of the advertising ban, the Protestant Women in Germany (EFiD) plead for its abolition: women currently have no possibility "to obtain information independently and autonomously from official counseling centers" in emergency situations, according to EFiD chairwoman Susanne Kahl-Passoth. For them the paragraph is even unconstitutional.

In the meantime, civil society groups are also mobilizing: members of the Bundesverband Lebensrecht already launched their campaign last year to retain the paragraph. An alliance for sexual self-determination wants to demonstrate for a deletion in front of the Reichstag parallel to the Bundestag debate.

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