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German minister calls for lifting of ‘Nazi-era’ ban on abortion ads by doctors

German minister calls for lifting of ‘Nazi-era’ ban on abortion ads by doctors
Doctors should be allowed to raise awareness about abortions and advertise openly, the German Justice Minister has argued. Heiko Maas called for the ban criminalizing the practice to be rescinded, slamming it as “a relic of the Nazi era.”

The Justice Minister called on lawmakers to do away with a law that still prohibits doctors from advertising the practice of pregnancy termination. According to the minister, an influential Social Democrat, paragraph 219a of the German criminal code “makes it complicated for women to get access to information [on abortion services] in extreme cases,” and represents “a relic of the Nazi era,” local media report. 

“The times in which the state enjoyed the right to control its citizens’ bodies have thankfully vanished into the past,” Maas remarked.

Under German law, anyone who publicly offers or advertises abortion services is subject to up to two years in jail or a fine, according to Deutsche Welle. German general practitioners and hospitals, some of which are run by faith-based organizations, are at liberty to refuse to provide the service.

The news is likely to add fuel to the heated debate between pro-life and pro-choice activists in Germany. The spat between both camps flared up in November, when a member of a radical pro-life organization ‘Nie Wieder’ (‘Never Again’) reported to the authorities that doctor Kristina Haenel offered information on her website about the abortions she performs, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The “advertisement” in question was posted on Haenel’s website back in 2015, in which she listed her services including family counseling and termination of pregnancy. Patients were informed in German, English or Turkish of the legal and medical aspects of the procedure.

The 61-year-old general practitioner was ordered to appear in court in the city of Giessen. During the hearing, the prosecutors said that the information itself did not amount to a criminal offence, but argued the doctor should not have “advertised” it openly on the website.

In Frankfurt and Giessen, a newly-founded pro-choice group called the ‘Alliance for Physical Autonomy,’ has launched rallies and public campaigns in support of doctor Haenel. In the meantime, ‘Nie Wieder’ has equated abortion with the Holocaust, launching a website babycaust.de, Deusche Welle reported.

The doctor herself insists her practice of raising awareness of abortions is to help women make “informed decisions.” She adds that “I don’t want women to have to go to the websites of anti-abortion activists to find a list of doctors who do pregnancy terminations.”

Abortion in Germany is permitted upon condition of mandatory counseling, and also in cases of medical necessity. Termination of pregnancy is covered by public health insurance in cases where the pregnancy was caused by rape and/or the mother’s health is seriously endangered.