28 Mar 2018

Will a German scandal change Austrian law?

Ever since a German doctor was fined 6,000 euros for "advertising" abortions on her personal website, the Bundestag has been split over abortion law. The debate has spread to Austria, where women fear the current law could be made stricter.

Julia Sahlender
Julia Sahlender Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Will a German scandal change Austrian law? - NewsMavens
Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

While one might think that safe and legal abortions are widely available in Germany and Austria, the reality is much more complex.

The procedure is still technically illegal in both countries, but it is not prosecuted if it happens within the first three months of pregnancy.

This state of affairs became a hot topic in November 2017, when a German gynecologist refused to pay a fine for having a downloadable PDF factsheet about abortion on her website. The German Social Democrats want change, whereas Merkel's CDU and the far-right AfD want the status quo.

Meanwhile, the debate has also reached Austria. There too, feministis groups are advocating for legalization, but under the current right-wing government, there is little hope for change in that direction.

Deep down, Austrian protesters probably have a more modest agenda: preventing the People's Party and the Freedom Party from undoing the modest gains of previous generations of women by taking advantage of the current legal grey zone.

politics, women's issues, reproductive rights

Details from the story:

  • After years of dormancy, the discussion on abortion law in Germany and Austria was reignited last year, when German gynecologist Kristina Hanel was fined 6,000 Euro for "advertising" abortion on her website, which is illegal. She stated that her intention was to inform patients.
  • One of the main drawbacks of the current law is that anti-abortion activists use it as a tool to intimidate doctors and sometimes patients by reporting them. 
  • In Austria, health insurance does not cover abortion costs -- a fact that many experts criticize, also because it hinders data collection. Although the number of abortions in Austria is assumed to be among the highest in Europe, these statistics are just estimations.
  • The "Frauenvolksbegehren" or "Women's Advocacy 2.0" does not include a demand for legalizing abortion. However, it demands health insurance to cover the procedures' costs and public hospitals to offer abortions.
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