Experts recommend legalising abortion in Germany, media reports say

By Thomson Reuters Apr 9, 2024 | 9:39 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany should legalise abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a government-appointed commission has recommended, several media outlets reported on Tuesday.

The health ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the media reports.

Abortion is illegal in Germany barring certain circumstances such as when the life of the woman is at risk or she is a victim of a violent crime. In these cases, the procedure must be performed within 12 weeks of conception.

In reality, however, abortions are widely available and prosecutions are almost never made.

Last year, Social Democrat Olaf Scholz’s three-way coalition set up a commission of 18 experts in medicine, psychology, ethics and law, to look at possible new rules. The report is due next week but it has been widely leaked in the German media, including Spiegel Online and the Sueddeutsche daily.

“The fundamental illegality of abortion in the early stages of pregnancy is not tenable,” the commission’s report was quoted as saying by media, adding current rules did not legally stand up to constitutional, international and European scrutiny.

The commission also said terminations in the late stages of pregnancy, estimated by experts to be around the 22nd week, should remain banned, according to the media reports. In addition, it should be up to lawmakers to decide on the rules between the early and late stages of pregnancy.

It will be up to the government to decide whether to accept the commission’s advice.

Abortion rights have become a divisive issue among voters in several countries, notably in the U.S., where it is expected to be a dominant theme in the presidential race, after the Supreme Court eliminated a nationwide right to abortion in 2022.

Poland’s 2021 revisions to abortion laws have also made headlines as conservative policies took root in one of Europe’s most devout Catholic countries. Earlier this year, French President Emmanuel Macron said he wants the European Union to guarantee the right to an abortion in its Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Some German conservative lawmakers object to the reported recommendations and have said they would take any planned reform to the Constitutional Court.

“A fundamental legalisation of abortions would be contrary to the child’s right to life and run counter to the case law of the Constitutional Court,” Andrea Lindholz, deputy chairperson of the conservative parliamentary group, told Spiegel Online.

In 2022, Germany abolished a Nazi-era law that had prevented doctors from providing information about abortions. Previously, doctors were allowed to say they offered termination of pregnancies but were not allowed to give details.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers, Editing by Rachel More and Devika Syamnath)