Abortion in Germany

Prior to unification in Germany, the country was divided in two: the Federal Republic of Germany in the West and the German Democratic Republic in the East.  Each country had their own policies relating to abortion.  The German Democratic Republic followed a model similar to that of other communist countries.  Abortion was legal on demand until the twelfth week of pregnancy.  After the twelfth week, abortions could be obtained if the pregnancy posed a threat to the life of the woman or fetus.  Abortion was often used as a method of family planning in the German Democratic Republic.  The Federal Republic of Germany had a stricter policy on abortion.  As in the German Democratic Republic, abortion was legal at any point if pregnancy posed a threat to the life of the woman or the fetus.  However, abortions as a result of crime were only legal for the first twelve weeks; this time limit also applied to women that were in states of “intolerable distress.”

Reunification took place in Germany in 1990.  When it came time to decide on laws for the new country, abortion became the subject of great debate.  Neither side wanted to adopt the law of the other and no conclusions could be made.  Ultimately, it was decided that the countries would reunify, sign the treaty, and address the issue of abortion at a later date.  For the next two years, the laws which were in place prior to reunification were still in effect in the corresponding locations.  Between 1992 and 1995, new legislation was being passed, challenged, and amended.  Finally, in 1995, Parliament finally came to a conclusion; this law is still in effect today.  Surgical abortions are allowed to be performed during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy; medical abortions can be performed up to 49 days after conception.  Although they are considered “unlawful,” no one is allowed to be prosecuted.

Three days prior to obtaining an abortion, a woman must have a counseling session.  As my research proved, these counselors are similar to those that work in crisis pregnancy centers in the United States.  They encourage women to “explore their options” and are legally allowed to invite friends, family members, etc. into the counseling session.  These counselors are also required to discuss the “right to life” of the fetus.  Following the counseling session, the counselor issues a certificate which the woman must present at her appointment; the woman will receive an “indication statement” if the pregnancy poses a threat to her well-being or was the result of crime.  Regardless, she must wait at least three days after the session to have the abortion.  Counselors should be required to give honest, unbiased information to clients and recognize the woman’s right to choose.  By discussing the “right to life” of the fetus, they lose their position of neutrality and give the woman cause to doubt her decision.

Abortions are completely covered under national health insurance if the woman has an indication statement (cases where the life of the woman or fetus is in danger or when the woman was impregnated as a result of crime).  If a woman is seeking an abortion without an indication statement, national insurance will only cover certain parts of the procedure: medical advice before the abortion, medications which are absolutely necessary before/after the abortion, and treatment of any complications.

The average cost of a medical abortion is 300 euros; the average cost of a surgical abortion is 460 euros.  If the woman’s income falls below the given threshold, she can apply to be reimbursed by her insurance provider.  The threshold varies depending on geographic location, income, family size, and assets.  Requiring women to pay for their abortion(s) poses a great barrier to access for low-income women.  Although there is an application for reimbursement, the procedure still requires payment at the time of the abortion; this is not possible for many women.

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