Abortion: Stop the camp shouting!

Should abortions become legal? We are discussing this more intensively than we have in a long time.

Abortion: Stop the camp shouting!

Should abortions become legal? We are discussing this more intensively than we have in a long time. Unfortunately, the public debate is predictably deadlocked. Because: Conservatives and progressives often argue far too rigidly and show no empathy for the other side. One would like to shout to them: Yes, a compromise is possible! Your constant camp thinking is annoying.

What happened? In mid-April, a commission appointed by the federal government recommended legalizing early pregnancy abortions. As a reminder: abortions are illegal in Germany. “Anyone who terminates a pregnancy will be punished with a prison sentence of up to three years or a fine” – this is how the famous paragraph 218 of the Criminal Code begins. However, an abortion within the first twelve weeks remains unpunished if the pregnant woman went to a recognized counseling center. By the way, paragraph 218 is in the section “Crimes against life”. In addition to murder, manslaughter and killing.

So now two bitter sides are publicly fighting against each other, not moving an inch towards each other. It starts with the language. If you want to formulate it objectively, you say embryo or later fetus. But one side screams, "It's a child!" And the other side shouts: "It's a pile of cells!" Emotional camp polemics. Conservatives want abortions to remain a criminal offense. Progressives are demanding that abortions become legal - without deadlines, without the obligation to provide counseling. Lack of compromise on both sides.

But: Neither position corresponds to the will of the population. 72 percent of Germans are in favor of allowing abortions without restrictions within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy in the future. This was the result of a representative survey by the opinion research institute Forsa on behalf of ntv. That means: Yes, abortions should be legal - but please not without a deadline.

So the Germans are pretty much in agreement. That's why it's nonsense when conservatives now warn that the abortion issue is dividing society. CSU regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt claimed that the previous regulation had ensured “social peace” that was now in danger, CDU leader Friedrich Merz warned of a “major social conflict,” and CSU politician Dorothee Bär claimed that the traffic light government was risking it a “dangerous division.” This is cheap opposition politics. What's more: they are empty, pseudo-arguments that fantasize about polarization where there is relative unity.

Nevertheless, conservatives want to stick to Paragraph 218 in the future. The CDU demands that abortions remain illegal - even though the majority of Germans do not want this. One may doubt whether this political disproportion will be so good for “social peace” in the long term. Oh well.

On the other side are progressives. Understandably, pro-choice activists are calling for more empowerment for women. Your demand to finally legalize abortion is long overdue. Paragraph 218 was reformed - but it has been in the criminal code for 152 years. Abortion has been a criminal offense since the Empire. This is no longer acceptable.

But when progressives simply call unborn life “clusters,” it also shows a cynical, cold view. As if unborn life were like organic waste: easy to dispose of. This makes the complex decision of an abortion sound much smaller than it is. This is empathyless. Yes, biologically speaking, at the beginning it is a cluster of cells. But an embryo develops from it. And becomes a fetus. For us this should mean: the rights of the embryo increase as the pregnancy continues. When it comes to conception, they are not synonymous with women's rights - of course a woman's right to self-determination should count for much more. But over time, the “cluster of cells” develops into a little person. The timing of a pregnancy doesn't matter - neither in the choice of words nor in the abortion itself. That's why progressives must credibly recognize that unborn life also deserves protection. The fact that the CDU, as a Christian party, emphasizes this protection is not reprehensible, but rather logical.

It all sounds pretty tricky. But it is not. A compromise between progressives and conservatives is possible: Why not legalize abortions in the first twelve weeks - and retain the obligation to provide counseling?

“No forced counseling” is what pro-choice activists would now answer. The fact that activists are demanding the maximum (decriminalization, no deadlines, no obligation to consult) is strategically understandable. You don't go into a salary negotiation and say: "Give me as little as possible." But one thing is certain: the advisory services were and remain extremely important. Maintaining the obligation to consult would be a nice signal from the progressives to the conservatives. According to the motto: We don't care about unborn life - of course we should talk about it. Open-ended and non-judgmental. Clearly.

You don't need criminal law for the obligation to provide advice, emphasizes medical ethicist Prof. Dr. Christiane Woopen in an interview. It is entirely possible for the legislature to legalize abortions - but at the same time maintain an obligation to provide advice, she says. Anyone who violates this commits an administrative offense, not a criminal offense. Only with the obligation to provide advice do people who are particularly in need of help come: women from violent households. They are important to you too – right, dear progressives?

And to all conservatives: You can refuse to have an abortion for yourself. Nobody forces you to do it. But how can you presume to criminalize other people's right to make decisions - and that on the most existential question of all?