Applicable law

Since October 1995, under the German act on conflict situations during pregnancy (Schwangerschaftskonfliktgesetz), every woman and man is entitled to sexual education and professional counselling for contraception, family planning and any questions connected to pregnancy.

Before an abortion counselling is required by law. The declared aim of this counselling is to continue with the pregnancy and protect the unborn life. But the law also says that this counselling must be open-ended and support the woman in taking this decision in her own responsibility.

  • Under what conditions can women have an abortion? »

    In Germany, abortion is allowed until the 12th week of pregnancy after conception, provided you have received legally required counselling. Thereafter abortions are allowed only for medical reasons.

    The calculation of gestational age is based on the assumption that the conception takes place two weeks after the last menstruation. The 12th week after conception is thus equivalent to the 14th week after the last menstruation. The ultrasound scan is crucial to determine the gestational age.

  • What does abortion based on the “Beratungsregelung” (regulation of abortion on request after counselling) mean? »

    If a woman considers having an abortion, she should know that it is only permitted under the following circumstances:
    - The woman must have taken part in the legally required counselling.
    - The procedure may only be performed more than three days after the counselling was completed.
    - The procedure has to be performed by a physician and until the 12th week after conception.
    - The decision has to be made by the woman.

  • What happens during the legally required counselling? »

    The counselling should not be focused on a certain result. This means that the woman herself is the one to take the decision in her own responsibility. “The counselling is supposed to encourage and to establish understanding, not to indoctrinate and patronize”. At the same time the counselling serves the purpose of “protecting the unborn life and to encourage the mother to be and to open up perspectives for a life with the child; it is supposed to help her to take a responsible and conscientious decision”. (StGB § 219)

    During the counselling the woman should be informed about available help and her legal rights, especially those, which might help her to decide to continue the pregnancy. She should be provided with the appropriate benefits and support. The woman should know about the following legal obligations of the counselling:

    - She is expected to disclose her reasons for thinking about or wanting an abortion. The counsellor is expected to offer to talk about her reasons and to help her come to the right decision. The woman decides herself whether she will accept these offers.

    - The woman should be aware of the legal meaning of an abortion. She should only decide for an abortion if carrying the pregnancy to term would be an unacceptable burden. But the women herself will judge her situation, and it is not the counsellor’s responsibility to assess it.

    - The counsellor has to record the vital contents of the counselling and the offered support. The identity of the woman must not be distinguishable. The records are not aimed at controlling the woman and her reasons but the work of the counselling centre.

    - All staff members of the counselling centre are obliged to confidentiality. They are not allowed to pass on any information about the client or details of the counselling without their consent. They are not even allowed to give information to anybody, whether a client has been counselled.

    - The counselling may be performed anonymously if the woman wishes so. In this case she initially doesn’t have to tell her name at the reception or to the counsellor.

    - After the counselling the client is entitled to a written certificate. The certificate has to contain the name of the client and the date of the last counselling. It should contain no details of the counselling. The counsellors of the Family Planning Centre and pro familia are aware of the difficulties of legally required counselling which a woman may not wish herself. They understand the difficult situation for the woman and try to provide empathetic counselling.

  • How much does the counselling cost? »

    The counselling is free of charge at a registered counselling centre, for example the Family Planning Centre / pro familia, for the woman and accompanying persons.

  • How much does an “abortion on request after counselling” cost? »

    Costs for an abortion on request are not usually covered by health insurance. The costs for the abortion procedure can only be refunded by the insurance if the personal income or property of the woman is below a certain limit or she draws benefits like BAföG. Details can be obtained at counselling centres or health insurance companies. A refunding of the costs has to be applied for and confirmed in writing by the health insurance company before the procedure. The written affirmation has to be taken to the abortion clinic.

    - The abortion does not need to be justified. The insurance company may only demand that the woman proves evidence of her income and property. Income and property of husband, family, parents etc. do not matter at all.

    - If the woman is not a member of a statutory health insurance fund she can still apply to a local statutory health insurance company for the refund of the abortion costs if her personal income and property are below a certain limit or she draws benefits like BAföG, Hartz IV etc.

    - If her income and/ or property exceed the limit, the woman has to pay for the procedure herself. If the woman wants to take time off work she is entitled to continuation of payments. She does not have to explain her reasons for taking time off.

  • What are the regulations regarding an abortion after rape? »

    In this case the abortion can be approved by a physician. This approval is called “kriminologische Indikation”.
    If a woman became pregnant due to a criminal act, e.g. rape, an abortion can be performed up to 12 weeks after conception. It is not necessary to report to the police. If the physician considers the woman’s information as reliable he or she can approve this indication. Counselling in a registered counselling centre is also not required. There are special regulations for minors.

  • What does abortion with “Indikation” (medical opinion) mean? »

    An abortion for medical reasons approved by a physician is considered legal. The physician who decides about the approval is not allowed to perform the abortion him or herself. The costs will be completely covered by the health insurance.
    Legal grounds are:

    Abortion due to a criminal act „Kriminologische Indikation”:
    The woman has become pregnant because of a criminal act like rape or sexual abuse. The termination has to be carried out until the 12th week after conception. It is not necessary to report the criminal act to the police. If the physician considers the woman’s information as reliable he or she can approve this indication. Couselling in a registered counselling centre is also not required.

    Abortion on medical grounds „Medizinische Indikation“:
    Continuing the pregnancy poses a serious risk for the woman’s physical or mental health under present or future circumstances. An abortion on medical grounds is also possible if a woman considers an abortion because serious damage of the child's health can be expected based on medical opinion (the former “embryopathische” or “eugenische Indikation”). In this case it is also crucial that continuing the pregnancy would mean a serious risk for the woman’s physical or mental health.

    In this case there is no legal time limit to perform the abortion. But there are directives for physicians which allow abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy only in case of severe fetal malformations, if the fetus is expected to die during pregnancy or soon after delivery.

    The approving physician has to advise the pregnant woman on all aspects of abortion and advise her about psychosocial counselling services. In case of fetal malformations the physician is obliged to advice the woman on the expected impairments of the child and on available support. Moreover he or she should help her find further specialists or support groups.

    The pregnant woman may decline counselling and reassignment.

    After this counselling, a waiting period of three days has to be observed before the physician can hand over the approval to the woman. The abortion may be performed directly thereafter.

  • How much does an abortion with medical opinion or due to a criminal act cost? »

    The costs will be completely covered by statutory health insurance funds. Private health insurance funds cover only abortions for medical reasons. Whether they will in future cover abortions because of a criminal act is not yet known.

  • Will the doctor who performs the abortion also offer me further counselling? »

    According to the law, the doctor performing the abortion has the following obligations: - He or she should give the woman the opportunity to speak with him or her about the reasons for her decision to have an abortion. - The doctor is obliged to inform the woman about the abortion procedure, its consequences and risks.

  • Which laws govern the abortion regulation? »

    Abortion is regulated in the “Schwangerschaftskonfliktgesetz“ (regulation concerning pregnancy conflicts) §§ 2, 5 and 6, “Schwangeren- und Familienhilfeänderungsgesetz” (regulation concerning pregnant women and help for the family) as well as in the §§ 218 and 219 of the StGB. These laws also include the entitlement to education and counselling for contraception, family planning and sexuality. Every woman and every man has the right to receive professional counselling in the Family Planning Centre / pro familia.

  • How is abortion for minors regulated? »

    Basically the same rules apply both for minors and adults. Within 12 weeks after the conception the minor is deemed to be able to decide herself whether to terminate the pregnancy or not. Even girls under 18 must not be forced by anyone to continue or terminate the pregnancy. Minors can attend the counselling sessions on their own or accompanied by a close person of their choice.

    Many doctors only perform an abortion for minors with consent of a person with parental responsibilities. Exemptions are possible and the doctor may establish whether the girl has the capacity to give valid consent to the abortion. With girls above the age of 16 this will usually be the case.

    Minors below the age of 14 require the consent of their parents. Abortions for medical reasons will be covered by the health insurance funds. Starting from the age of 15, minors can also apply for refunding of the abortion costs at a statutory health insurance company.


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