What is no longer embarrassing

In view : Not at all embarrassing

Paragraph 218 of the Criminal Code has become quiet over the past two decades. The termination of a pregnancy, allowed in the GDR since 1972, in western Germany since 1976 under conditions with impunity, had made two big headlines about twenty years ago: at the end of the 80s, when the Allgäu gynecologist Horst Theissen and his patients because of - in Bavaria - illegal outpatient abortions were on trial. And one more time with German unity. At that time it was necessary to combine the permissive GDR abortion law with the more restrictive paragraph 218 of the Federal Republic. Abortion has been illegal since 1995, but is not punished if a doctor performs it and the pregnant woman has been advised as prescribed.

Now the Federal Constitutional Court, which has repeatedly dealt with the subject since 1974, published a decision this week that initially seems to agree with those who see the continuing illegality as the gateway to ever new attacks against the right to abortion: Karlsruhe agreed with a Christian activist who distributed leaflets against abortion in front of the practice of a Munich gynecologist, addressed the doctor's patients and referred to him as an abortion doctor on the Internet. Several instances had seen the doctor's personal rights violated as a result; The constitutional judges, for their part, saw the anti-abortion opponent's right to freedom of expression violated and referred the case back to the Munich Regional Court.

A victory for Germany's lifeguards? Rather the opposite. After weighing up the rights of the doctor and the demonstrator in front of his practice door, the judges determine that one of them cannot violate the other's personal rights: it is “not recognizable”, they write, that the doctor “has suffered a comprehensive loss of social Attention threatens if his willingness to undertake abortions is made the subject of a public discussion ”. In other words, the judges believe it is now socially established that abortion is neither criminal nor sufficiently shameful to cause the social death of a doctor. The abortions carried out by the doctor are literally marked as not “criminally relevant or even prohibited by law at all”.

Also interesting are the statements about the patients: Should they “see themselves being run the gauntlet, as it were” as a result of the campaign in front of the practice, this could justify interference with freedom of expression. But the courts, which found the doctor right, would not have made that plausible.

All in all, a decision that tends to confirm the fears of the “life protectors”: namely that the illegality of abortion has no legal consequences. The question remains why it is not finally being given up - a question for politicians, but also for Karlsruhe, which has repeatedly insisted on it over the past decades.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page