Germany moves to scrap ban on ‘advertising’ abortions

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s justice minister says he will present legislation next month to remove from the country’s criminal code a ban on doctors “advertising” abortions, one of several more liberal social policies that the new government plans.

The three parties that form Chancellor Olaf Scholz ’s government have long opposed the current rules, but they were defended by the center-right Union bloc of ex-Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is now in opposition.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said in comments to the Funke newspaper group published Wednesday that there is a “huge reform backlog” on social policy. He said the first step will be to scrap a paragraph in Germany’s criminal code that bans “advertising” abortions, and which carries a fine or a prison sentence of up to two years.

Under a compromise in 2019, Merkel’s government left the ban formally in place but allowed doctors and hospitals for the first time to say on their websites that they perform abortions. They were not, however, allowed to give more detailed information.

Buschmann said the so-called paragraph 219a constitutes a “penal risk” for doctors performing legal abortions who give factual information on the internet, and that is “absurd.”

“Many women who wrestle with themselves on the question of an abortion look for advice on the internet,” he said. “It cannot be that, of all people, the doctors who are professionally best qualified to inform them aren’t allowed to provide information there.”

Other changes to social policy planned by the new governing coalition of Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats, the Greens and Buschmann’s Free Democrats include scrapping a 40-year-old law that requires transsexual people to get a psychological assessment and a court decision before officially changing gender, a process that often involves intimate questions.

The coalition has pledged to replace that with a new “self-determination law.”

File—In this picture taken Dec.9, 2021 Marco Buschmann, Federal Minister of Justice, gives a statement at the BMJV in Berlin, Germany. (Thomas Trutschel/dpa via AP, file)

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