GERMANY – German high court smacks down ban on anti-abortion protests outside abortion clinics

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, one of five federal supreme courts in Germany, ruled this month that blanket bans on “peaceful prayer gatherings” outside abortion clinics impinge upon the freedom of assembly guaranteed in the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany 1949. The ruling was in response to a case initiated by a local chapter of 40 Days for Life, imitating the US movement of the same name, reversing a regional court decision last August.

In February 2023, Germany’s Federal Minister for Family Affairs Lisa Paus vowed to introduce legislation to stop anti-abortion activists from blocking access to abortion facilities nationally. She described the so-called “vigil protests” as “violations and unacceptable attacks on women’s extremely personal decision” and said: “The German government will counter this with legal measure.”

A legal measure was indeed introduced this month, but it does not sound as if it made clinic protests illegal. Instead, on 23 June 2023, Germany’s coalition government of the center-left — Social Democrats, Greens and neoliberal Free Democrats — pushed a motion through parliament  to scrap 219a. Paragraph 219a is in the criminal code and has its origins in Nazi-era social policy. It is one of the biggest hurdles to obtaining information on where to find an abortion in Germany. It stated that anyone who publicly “offers, announces [or] advertises” abortion services can face penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment or a fine”. Although a reform three years ago allowed doctors to state that they provide abortion on their websites, they were still banned from giving medical details. It seems that at least this bit of the law is finally gone.

SOURCES:, by Jon Brown, 26 June 2023 ; DW, by Elizabeth Schumacher, 24 June 2023 + PHOTO by Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters ; DW, 23 February 2023