Germany: Criminal prohibition of abortion “advertising” restricts information provision

Many thanks to Stephanie Schlitt, a consultant researcher with the World Health Organisation’s Global Abortion Policies Database (online here), for commenting about current legal debates in Germany.

In November 2017, general practitioner Dr Kristina Hänel was sentenced under Section 219a of the German Penal Code to pay a fine of 6000 for stating on her office website that she provides abortion services.  Her conviction (against which she is appealing), and cases of other physicians, have prompted a debate on the repeal or reform of Section 219a, one of several remaining Nazi era Penal Code articles.  Entitled “advertisement for termination of pregnancy”, §219a criminalises those who “for material gain or in a grossly inappropriate manner” offer abortion services, irrespective of whether the abortion provided is within the scope of the law.  In Germany, abortion is a crime which is not punishable if undertaken after mandatory conflict pregnancy counselling within twelve weeks of gestation and for specified indications at later stages.  There is no general prohibition against physicians’ websites stating the services they provide.

Those who wish to repeal §219a argue that it stigmatises abortion, violates women’s rights of access to information about a medical procedure which they have decided or may decide to undergo and unjustifiably exposes physicians to criminal prosecution for providing factual information.  Advertisement by physicians can be regulated adequately by laws on the practice of medicine.  Opponents of repeal argue that §219a is a necessary part of the state’s protection of prenatal life, relying on Constitutional Court statements that abortion must not be “normalised” or “commercialised” and therefore should not be treated like other medical procedures.  They say that information about physicians offering abortions could be published online by all state-level Ministries of Health.

The pro-repeal Social Democrat Party is calling for a free parliamentary vote, unless it can reach a law reform agreement with its anti-repeal Christian Democratic partners in Germany’s coalition government by summer of 2018.   . . .  Read more detailed comment.

Note:  Reprohealthlaw readers who know about relevant legal provisions and law reform discussions in other countries are encouraged to contact the author {stephanieschlitt*at*hotmail .com} who can share such information with German advocates.

See also: 
“German doctor fined for illegally ‘advertising’ abortions”  News article.

Section 219a of the German criminal code available in German. 

UPDATE: Feb. 6, 2019

Germany’s cabinet approves revision to Nazi-era abortion law banning doctor advertising  News article, Feb 6, 2019


Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here. TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.

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