Row over new German government’s plans to reform abortion law

Germany’s incoming government is facing opposition over its planned reform of the aborition law before it even takes office.

The new coalition under Olaf Scholz wants to change the law to make abortions free on for all women for the first time, and plans to make the procedure part of basic medical training for all doctors.

But German conservatives are up in arms over plans to overturn the current strict ban on advertising abortions.

“We have an advertising ban on tobacco, and warnings on packets saying smoking can be fatal,” Hubert Hüppe, an MP for Angela Mekel’s CDU party, told Bild newspaper.

“An abortion is definitely fatal for the child. Who could understand that abortion is fundamentally wrong if advertising for it is legalised?”

Mr Scholz’s Social Democrat party (SPD) dismissed the complaints as “absurd” and said advertising for abortions would remain subject to “strict regulations”.

Mr Scholz’s new coalition is set to take office in just over a week, and changing the abortion law is just one of a number of major changes it wants to make in social policy.

It plans to legalise the sale of cannabis, make condoms and contraceptive pills free on public health insurance, and lower both the voting and driving ages to 16.

The new coalition also plans to allow trans people to determine their own legal gender, and overturn current laws under which they have to go to court to change it.

It is a package of measures calculated to horrify the more socially conservative wings of Mrs Merkel’s party, which is set to go into opposition for the first time in 16 years.

The change in the abortion advertising law was prompted by the case of a German gynaecologist who was fined €6,000 (£5,000) for breaking it in 2017.

Dr Kristina Hänel was found guilty of breaching the law even though her website only listed abortions as one of the procedures she offered and did not attempt to promote them.

Since her case the law has been amended to make it legal for doctors and clinics to list abortions as a service they offer, but critics say it is still too strict.

“It should be possible to provide objective information on the manner, preparation, implementation and follow-up care for abortions,” said Dr Christian Albring, president of the German Gynecologists’ Association.

Concern is growing in Germany after many doctors stopped offering abortions because they were targeted by “pro-life” activists.

The new government plans to make it possible to prosecute activists who cause a “pavement nuisance” by demonstrating outside practices.

It wants public health insurance to cover the cost of abortions for all women. Currently only those on low incomes can get free abortions, while most must pay for the procedure.

Under German law, women have to seek advice from special counselling centres before they can get an abortion, but some cities have no centres. The new government plans to offer online advice to counter the problem.

The new coalition brings together parties from the centre-Left and centre-Right. Mr Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) and the German Greens are natural bedfellows, while the Free Democrats (FDP) are conservative on the economy but liberal on social issues.

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