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Germany joins countries wanting to introduce buffer-zones around abortion clinics

by Ros Mayfield

Germany has become the latest government to propose creating so-called ‘buffer zones’ around its country’s abortion clinics.

A new draft bill, announced last week by Germany’s Federal Family Minister Lisa Paus, seeks to introduce fines of up to 5,000€ (£4,340), which campaigners say will target peaceful expression on public streets near abortion-related facilities.

The bill aims to create so-called “buffer zones” around the facilities, outlawing any behaviour that could be interpreted as “disturbing” or “confusing” to women attending wanting to terminate a pregnancy.

Pro-life activists are concerned about the lack of legal clarity over the terms.  They say harassment is already illegal in Germany, and fear the proposals would be used against peaceful expressions of people’s views.

Germany’s Cabinet approved the bill last week, and it will now move through parliament, including three readings in the Bundestag in Berlin.  

The UK adopted “buffer zone” legislation in 2023, which is expected to come into force in England and Wales soon.  Last year former Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, had to clarify to police forces that silent prayer was not a crime, following the arrest of a woman, known to have pro-life views, who stood on the street near an abortion facility.

In Germany, campaigners recently won their right to freedom of assembly, after they gathered to hold silent prayer vigils as part of ’40 Days for Life’.

Dr. Felix Böllmann, German lawyer and Director of European Advocacy at ADF International, said:

 “Peaceful gatherings, prayer and offers of help should never be banned. The plans of the German government are alarming—not only do they put blanket restrictions on fundamental freedoms, but also they weaken civil society’s engagement for the protection of the right to life.

“Any form of harassment is obviously forbidden. But censorship zones are not pro-choice, they are no-choice and have no place in a free and democratic society.”

Ludwig Brühl, German Communications Officer for ADF International said unborn lives are protected under German law, and “committed pro-life individuals must not be criminalized for the peaceful expression of their convictions.”

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