Abortion should be legal in first trimester, German government commission says

Abortion should be legal in first trimester, German government commission says

A commission appointed by Olaf Scholz’s coalition government has concluded that abortion before 12 weeks should be legalised in Germany, bringing the federal republic’s law into line with international standards.

Commission concludes abortion should be legalised in Germany

A commission of experts on reproductive self-determination and reproductive medicine has resolved that Germany’s current abortion law should be up-ended, and termination made legal within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Currently, abortion is illegal in Germany except for in specific circumstances; if it can be proven that carrying to term would be life-threatening for the pregnant person or if the pregnancy is a result of rape. Additionally, anyone in Germany who meets these criteria must undergo compulsory counselling with a state-recognised body. Once these boxes have been ticked an abortion can be carried out legally, but only within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

What changes do the abortion law commission propose?

According to the 600-page report published on April 15 by the commission of experts, all of whom are women, the current, strict criteria that must be met for an abortion to be carried out legally do not meet international standards. 

While few people are currently penalised, the commission concluded that since the strict law remains in the penal code, a government could easily instigate punishments should it decide to. 

“The fundamental illegality of abortion in the early stages of pregnancy is not sustainable,” the report read, with law professor and commission member Liane Woerner urging the government to “take action to make abortion legal and unpunishable”. 

The commission recommends that abortion be legal at least within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and that the government examine whether a new law should make abortion legal in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy, since it is after 22 weeks that a foetus can survive outside of the womb. They concluded that abortion should be forbidden, but not criminalised, in the following weeks of pregnancy.

AfD pushes to tighten existing abortion law in Germany

Opposition to the proposal has already been voiced by parties on the centre and far-right of the German political spectrum. 

While politicians of the CDU / CSU argue that the current 153-year-old law should stay in place unchanged, AfD representatives argue that it should be tightened even further, saying that too many abortions currently take place in Germany and that the party will turn to the constitutional court if law changes are made.

According to figures from the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) 104.000 abortions were reported to have been carried out in Germany in 2022, compared to 232.000 in France and 123.219 in England and Wales. 

Meanwhile, the Center for Reproductive Rights in Europe and French President Emmanuel Macron celebrated the commission’s conclusion. Legal since 1975, early March saw France enshrine abortion as a constitutional right.

For now, the German government is not obligated to follow the commission’s recommendation and declined to comment as to whether abortion would be legalised on the recommended terms before the next federal election in 2025.

“It will depend on how the debate develops,” government spokesperson Christiane Hoffman explained at a press conference.

Thumb image credit: Antonio Guillem /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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