The Commission on Reproductive Self-Determination and Reproductive Medicine in Germany on Monday submitted a final report recommending the legalization of abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in the country.The German government appointed the Commission in March last year to answer the government’s questions regarding abortion and reproductive medicine. An interdisciplinary body, the Commission consists of 18 experts from different backgrounds including from the medical field, psychologists, sociologists, health scientists, ethics experts, and legal experts, among others. After 11 months of research and examination, the Commission submitted its 600-page report on Monday, which contained several legislative recommendations. The Commission recommended legislators legalize abortion in the early stages of pregnancy, and allow flexibility regarding middle to later-term pregnancies.At present, Section 218 of the German Criminal Code (StGB) punishes the termination of pregnancy to protect unborn human life, and those found to be in violation of this law could be made subject to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine. Section 218a StGB sets out exceptions to this general rule, and balances protecting unborn life against upholding the basic rights of women. The current regime provides that a pregnant woman requesting an abortion within the 12-week mark of pregnancy will not be liable under Section 218 if she has undergone mandatory counseling at least three days before getting the abortion with a recognized pregnancy conflict counseling agency. It also allows abortion within 12 weeks of pregnancy if the pregnancy was the result of sexual violence, such as rape. Abortion is always allowed, regardless of the stage of the pregnancy, if it is medically necessary to ensure the pregnant woman’s physical or mental health. After careful evaluation of the current legal, social, and psychological situations, the Commission recommended the existing legislative framework be amended, allowing abortion with the woman’s consent in the early stages of pregnancy to ensure women ‘receive abortions promptly and without barriers.’ For middle-phase pregnancy, the Commission recommended legislators consider extending the 12-week restriction where pregnancies resulting from sexual offenses are concerned. For late-stage pregnancy, while abortion should remain prohibited generally, the Commission nevertheless recommended legislators must provide exceptions and allow abortion to be justified on certain grounds such as the pregnant woman’s physical or mental health.In addition, the Commission was also tasked with the feasibility of legalizing egg donation and altruistic surrogacy. In response to those questions, the Commission recommended that egg donation remain possible under strict conditions. Still, altruistic surrogacy should remain prohibited out of ethical, practical, and legal concerns, or only be permitted under very strict conditions, such as where there is a strong family tie or close friendship between intended parents and surrogate mother.One of the strongest oppositions against liberalizing abortion comes from the Catholic Church. On Monday, Irme Stetter-Karp, President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), released a statement on the Commission’s report. Criticizing the Commission’s recommendations for cutting “the pillars of Section 218 of the Criminal Code”, she remarked:“The Commission is considering legalizing abortion in the early stages. That would mean the end of a clear concept of protecting life. Human dignity exists from the beginning. From the ZdK’s perspective, a time-limited solution is therefore not acceptable.”Notably, the law on abortion is perceived to be more restrictive in Germany than in many other European countries. Some German women travel to neighboring European countries to get the surgery. However, the right to abortion remains a controversial issue in not only Germany but also many other European countries. On March 4, the French National Assembly voted to include the right to abortion in the Constitution of France. On April 12, the Polish legislature voted on four abortion–related proposals Friday and created an Extraordinary Committee to draft new abortion laws. On April 11, the right to abortion was enshrined as a fundamental right under the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the European Union.

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