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Pot, abortion, Yücel top marathon Bundestag debates

Rebecca Staudenmaier with dpa
February 23, 2018

German MPs sat through a long day of debates covering issues from pot, to burqa bans, to abortion "advertisements," to journalist Deniz Yücel's work. DW breaks down what happened.

Lawmakers in Germany's Bundestag
Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/E. Contini

Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, held a long day of fiery debates stretching into the night on Thursday, tackling proposals and draft laws ranging on a wide array of major issues. Here's what was up for debate:

Deutschland Petition zum Abtreibungsrecht | Kristina Hänel und Unterstützer
Doctor Kristina Hänel (second from left) was handed a €6,000 fine for posting on her website that her clinic offers abortion servicesImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Change.org/M. Arriens

Decriminalizing abortion 'advertising' 

What was proposed: The Greens and the Left party each proposed draft laws to repeal paragraph 219a of Germany's criminal code. The clause makes it a crime for anyone who publically "offers, announces [or] advertises" abortion services. Those who do so can be jailed for two years or face a fine.

The business-friendly, free-market liberal Free Democrats (FDP) recommended amending the clause so that it only penalizes abortion advertising "which is done in a roughly offensive manner."

What MPs said: The ban on publically saying that a clinic provides abortion services has created issues for doctors who offer the procedure but who cannot post it on their websites. The Left party, Greens and Social Democrats (SPD) argued that the clause limits women's access to health care information and is no longer "up-to-date."

Lawmakers with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), their Bavarian-sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) said they strictly oppose changing the clause. The CDU/CSU opposition means that any change to the ban is likely a long way off.

Read more:German doctor lodges petition to change abortion law

Deniz Yücel

What was proposed: Parliamentarians debated an AfD proposal asking the German government to publically condemn a column and an article written in 2011 and 2012 by German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel. The Welt correspondent and former taz column-writer was released from prison last week in Turkey after being detained for over a year.

What MPs said: A heated debate broke out in the Bundestag over the AfD's proposal, which was sharply criticized by all other parties. The Green's Cem Özdemir said the AfD's proposal was an attack on press freedom and freedom of speech while AfD parliamentarian Gottfried Curio called Yücel a "hate preacher." The measure was voted down by a large majority of parliamentarians.

Read moreAfter Yücel, Germany looks to others detained in Turkey

Bringing lobbyists out of the shadows

Lobby list

What was proposed: The Left party and the Greens put forward two bills that call for the introduction of a mandatory register for lobbyists. The two parties said the register was necessary to create more transparency. The list would be publically available and show who is lobbying the government, which legislation they are lobbying for, as well as what they hope to gain, and which organization they work for.

What MPs said: SPD parliamentarians said they would push for a mandatory lobby register should the next coalition government with Merkel's conservatives be approved. CDU and CSU parliamentarians argued against the legislation. According to media reports, the CSU managed at the last minute to remove a lobby register from the coalition agreement between the conservative bloc and the SPD.

Read more:Lobbyists and politicians: What are the regulations?

A marijuana leaf on a traffic light
Germany legalized medical cannabis-use in 2017Image: picture-alliance/dpa/N. Schmidt

Decriminalizing cannabis

What was proposed: The Greens presented a bill that would no longer make private cannabis use a crime and instead open a strictly controlled and regulated market for marijuana. The FDP proposed a "cannabis model project" to test private legal marijuana consumption, saying that "repressing" cannabis use has failed. The Left party also put forth a proposal calling for the government to allow the private use of cannabis and to change laws making its consumption illegal.

What MPs said: Although Germany legalized medical cannabis in 2017, any moves to fully decriminalize it remain controversial. The SPD was open to the proposals and draft law, but the CDU/CSU as well as the AfD strongly opposed them. AfD MPs argued that they believe cannabis is a gateway drug to stronger substances.

Read more:Germany's medicinal cannabis market struggles with short supply and high costs

Full-face veil ban

What was proposed: The AfD submitted a proposal calling for a nationwide ban on full-face veils in public, arguing that the full-face and body coverings harm gender equality and that a ban would help the "individual freedom" of Muslim women.

What MPs said: Many parliamentarians from other parties criticized the AfD for appearing to champion the cause of women's rights and protecting women when their proposal actually infringes upon their individual rights. FDP parliamentarian Katrin Helling-Plahr said the proposal would actually inhibit certain Muslim women who use full-body and face coverings from leaving the house. "You are not actually helping these women, rather you're robbing their last piece of freedom," Helling-Plahr said. CDU/CSU politicians, appeared to partially side with the AfD, saying that burqas and niqabs inhibit integration measures.

Read moreGermany's AfD wants ban on wearing a headscarf in street

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