GERMANY – A government-appointed commission recommends officially legalising first trimester abortion

Terminating a pregnancy has officially remained a criminal offence in Germany, as stipulated in Paragraph 218 of the criminal code, though it is exempt from punishment if carried out within the first three months of pregnancy and if the woman has received counselling. It is also expressly permitted in cases of rape or if the woman’s life or physical or mental health is at risk.

The Commission on Reproductive Self-Determination and Reproductive Medicine was appointed by the government in March 2023. It was an inter-disciplinary body, consisting of 18 experts from different backgrounds, including the medical field, psychologists, sociologists, health scientists, ethics experts, and legal experts, among others. They did research and deliberated for 11 months and submitted a 600-page report on 15 April. They said all restrictions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy should be removed, called for flexibility regarding middle to later-term pregnancies, and said the current ban after fetal viability should be kept.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said there was an “immediate need for action” with regards to women’s access to abortions and adequate care for women with unwanted pregnancies, especially in the religiously conservative south of the country. However, neither Lauterbach nor the justice and family ministers receiving the recommendations alongside him gave a timeline for a draft law.

SOURCES: DW, by Christoph Hasselbach, 15 April 2024; Reuters, by Friederike Heine, 15 April 2024 + PHOTO by Christine Uyanik/REUTERS File Photo; Jurist, by Jingwen Liu, Chinese U. Hong Kong Faculty of Law. 15 April 2024