Abortions in the first twelve weeks should be legalized in Germany, the committee is expected to say

Abortions in Germany should be legalized within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a government-appointed committee will recommend on Monday.

Although abortion is rarely punished, it remains illegal in Germany, except in specific circumstances, for example when a woman’s life is in danger or the victim of rape, while the condition for any termination is consultation with a state-recognized body .

Advocates for a change in the law have welcomed the investigation into the country’s legal framework, calling the law outdated and harmful to women. Even in cases not considered illegal, the procedure must take place within the first three months, unless there is a compelling reason to carry it out later.

The all-female committee of experts on reproductive self-determination and reproductive medicine was established by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s tripartite government after the desire to change the 153-year-old law was enshrined in the coalition agreement.

However, opposition lawmakers, especially from the conservative Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union and the far-right Alternative for Germany, say the existing law has broad acceptance in its current form and provides necessary protection for the unborn. They argue that despite being illegal, abortions are accessible and that abortions extremely rarely lead to prosecution. If the recommendations are acted on, they have said they will turn to the constitutional court.

The AfD advocates tightening the existing law and believes that too many abortions are now taking place. One of the arguments is that Germany would need fewer migrants if the birth rate were higher.

The report is expected to highlight how existing German legislation is incompatible with international standards and needs to be modernized.

The report, which was leaked to some German media last week, recommends that the law is unsustainable by effectively criminalizing any woman who has an abortion.

“The fundamental illegality of abortion in the early stages of pregnancy is not sustainable,” it said.

The experts said abortion should remain banned after the stage at which a fetus is considered capable of surviving outside the womb, which is generally considered to be around 22 weeks. It said it should be up to lawmakers to decide the specific timeframes, recommending that they follow existing medical and ethical guidelines.

The government is not obliged to accept the committee’s advice.

Those pushing for a change in the law say the inclusion of abortion in the early stages of pregnancy in section 218 of the Criminal Code means a future government could impose penalties for terminations of pregnancy with relative ease.

With the AfD, which favors tightening existing laws, rising in the polls in recent months, this danger has become more urgent, campaigners say.

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They have pointed to developments in other countries, such as the US and neighboring Poland in particular, where abortion rights have become a highly divisive issue, especially since the US Supreme Court decided in 2022 to abolish the nationwide right to abortion.

On Friday, the Center for Reproductive Rights in Europe welcomed news that lawmakers in Poland under the new liberal government of Donald Tusk had taken the first step in relaxing the country’s strict abortion rules, including moving to decriminalize the act.

Advocates for change in Germany have welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative for the EU to guarantee women’s right to abortion in its charter of fundamental rights, and for France to enshrine abortion as a constitutional right. Lawmakers said the impetus for this initiative was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

In 2022, a Nazi-era law banning doctors from advertising abortion services was abolished in Germany after efforts by anti-abortion activists to push for the prosecution of some gynecologists.

The Bundestag recently passed a new law Gehsteigbelästigungsgesetz or a street harassment law that bans the harassment of people, whether staff or patients, in areas surrounding clinics where abortions are offered.