Abortions in first 12 weeks should be legal in Germany, commission says

By Thomson Reuters Apr 15, 2024 | 4:19 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany should legalise abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, a government-appointed commission recommended on Monday.

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 extremely rare.

Last year, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s centre-left coalition set up a commission of 18 experts in medicine, psychology, ethics and law, to look at possible new rules.

Its recommendations are due to be published later on Monday.

“The fundamental illegality of abortion in the early phase of pregnancy is untenable,” commission member Liane Woerner, criminal law professor at Konstanz University, told a press conference ahead of the publication.

“Lawmakers should take action and make these abortions legal and unpunishable.”

The commission also said terminations when an embryo becomes viable, estimated to be around the 22nd week of pregnancy, should remain banned, and that 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. Some members of the conservative opposition have said they would take any planned reform to the Constitutional Court.

Abortion rights have become a divisive issue among voters in the United States and several European countries.

Poland’s 2021 revisions to abortion laws 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.

In 2022, Germany abolished a Nazi-era law that had prevented doctors who offered termination of pregnancies from giving any details about the procedure.

(Reporting by Friederike Heine, Editing by Rachel More and Philippa Fletcher)