16 Mar 2018

Abortion is not taught in German medical schools

In Germany, abortion is legal and one of the most common procedures performed by gynecologists. But medical students have to learn it on their own.

Daria Sukharchuk
Daria Sukharchuk NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Source: NEON
Abortion is not taught in German medical schools - NewsMavens
Surgeon. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

While abortion is legal in Germany, abortion services still can't be advertised on television or in print, or even by a doctor on his or her own website. And women must attend a non-medical consultation and wait for three days before having the procedure.

But the biggest barrier to access is that abortion is not taught in German medical schools.

Students at The Charité, Berlin's largest university hospital, can take a course on the ethical aspects of abortion but not the technical details.

So medical students organize informal study groups and learn the procedure using -- of all things-- papayas. The so-called "Papaya Workshops" are led by a student group called Medical Students for Choice, and it aims to teach the proper method for vacuum aspiration, which is the most common abortion procedure in Germany.

The rate of abortions across Europe has been declining for decades thanks to improved access to contraception and education. Yet every year, more than 100,000 abortions are performed in Germany -- a procedure that needs to be done by trained professionals.

The point of legalizing abortion is to give women access to reproductive healthcare by a doctor in a safe environment. But if there's no training, what's the difference between a doctor and a back-alley "professional"? It puts women at unnecessary risk.

XX news,health,reproductive rights,familygender

Details from the story:

  • Germany made abortion legal in the 1970s and liberalized the law in 1992, allowing abortions on on demand during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • The safest and easiest way to perform an abortion, with a pill, works only for 63 days after conception. After that, a doctor must perform a medical procedure. 
  • The most common procedure, vacuum aspiration, is performed in over 60 percent of abortions. It is not taught in German medical schools.
  • Advertising abortion services is punishable by a fine up to 6,000 EUR. Activists are campaigning to legalize such advertising, but the leading CDU/CSU party is against the idea.
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