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German lawmakers voted over the weekend to abolish a Nazi-era law that banned the advertisement of abortion services, a measure that had effectively criminalized the act of doctors providing information about the procedure, the New York Times reported.
The vote came after years of deliberations over the law, the first in Europe to ban the transmission of information about the procedure.
Lawmakers in Germany’s new governing coalition led by the central-left Social Democratic Party voted to repeal the law. The conservative opposition Christian Democratic Party and the far-right Alternative for Germany voted against it.
Pro-choice activists and medical professionals welcomed the move, saying it will make it easier for women to find an abortion provider – a process that had been difficult in the past. Critics said it would result in a spike in abortions.
Abortion is legal in Germany until the 12th week of pregnancy with a mandatory counseling session but medical practitioners had been forbidden from advertising – or providing – any information about the procedure.
The issue gained attention in 2017 when Kristina Hänel, a general practitioner in the town of Giessen, posted information about the procedure on her website. A court deemed her post as an advertisement and fined her $6,300. The case ended up in Germany’s highest court.
The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe upheld the law but Hänel’s case prompted calls to repeal the legislation. Germany’s previous conservative government later changed the law to allow doctors to indicate whether they offered abortions. The ban on advertising remained.
Meanwhile, criminal complaints and legal proceedings against medical practitioners continued, until now.