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Germany

SPD Mulls Supporting New Law on Late-Term Abortions

Germany's conservative CDU has retracted its planned motion to amend the country's laws on late-term abortions in order to give its coalition partner, the SPD, time to consider adding its support.

A pregnant woman

The CDU wants more counselling for women facing late-term abortion

Both coalition groups have confirmed to the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper that the Social Democrats are taking time to consider a Christian Democrat motion that would tighten the laws regulating late-term abortions in Germany.

Despite several past attempts, the two coalition partners have never managed to find a common position on late-term abortions.

A late-term abortion is a termination which is carried out after the 20th week in a pregnancy when there is a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother. Most late-term abortions are carried out when prenatal diagnosis reveals that the fetus has a severe disability. Currently, some 600 late-term abortions are performed in Germany each year.

The CDU's motion aims to reduce this number by mandating that women receive counselling from a doctor about the medical and psychological consequences of a late-term abortion. The doctor should also inform the patient about living with a physically or mentally disabled child, and point her towards other means of support.

Renate Schmidt

Renate Schmidt, SPD: "I can see supporting this motion."

A woman considering a late-term abortion would also have a three-day waiting period between the counseling session and the procedure to give her time to think about her options.

The new law would foresee a 10,000-euro ($14,400) fine for doctors who fail to properly advise patients.

Mixed views within SPD

"That the SPD is once again thinking about supporting our motion is an encouraging signal," said Johannes Singhammer, the conservatives' parliamentary spokesman on family affairs.

But within the SPD, opinion is still split.

"I can see supporting this motion," said Renate Schmidt, the SPD's former minister for family affairs.

But the Social Democrats' deputy parliamentary group head, Christel Humme, speaks for others in the party who say that there is no need for new abortion legislation.

In an interview with German broadcaster Deutschlandradio, she said that, if anything, women should receive such counseling earlier on in their pregnancy before they are confronted with the knowledge that they are carrying a potentially disabled fetus.

"Many women have said to me that if they had only known what was coming their way, then they might not have had amniocentesis done, for example," Humme said.

The SPD's former coalition partner, the Green Party, is against the CDU's motion, calling it unnecessary. Neither the threat of a fine for doctors nor an increase in paperwork will help women who find themselves in a very difficult situation, said the Green's spokeswoman for women's issues, Irmingard Schewe-Gerigk.

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