German court blocks abortion law

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The Independent Online
GERMANY'S Supreme Court last night blocked a new law liberalising abortion that was due to come into effect today.

The law, which was finally passed by the Bundestag (lower house) in June, would have unified the country's regulations on abortion, one of the main points of contention following unification in 1990.

MPs agreed that women should be allowed to choose whether or not to have an abortion within the first three months of pregnancy. In the old East Germany, abortion was available virtually on demand, while in the West it had to be approved by doctors according to strict medical, genetic or psychological criteria.

The ruling reached by the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe last night means that the different regulations will continue to apply in eastern and western regions pending a final ruling by the court in the autumn.

Yesterday's decision resulted from a request for a preliminary injunction against the new abortion law, which was brought by 247 conservative members of parliament, including Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The injunction was strongly supported by the government in the Catholic southern state of Bavaria.

Conservative politicians were quick to hail last last night's news as a victory for their cause. Theo Waigel, leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, said his party's rejection of the new law had been 'emphatically underlined' by the court.

Supporters of the more liberal regulations, meanwhile, were critical of the Karlsruhe judges. 'I deeply regret their decision,' said Christine Bergemann, Senator for Women in Berlin. 'The new law was supported by a wide consensus in society and among politicians.'

Despite the setback, Uta Wurfel, the MP who originally proposed the more liberal regulations, said she was confident that the constitutional court would not overturn the legislation when it made its final ruling in the

autumn.

The parliamentary vote to liberalise the law nationwide was achieved only after a significant number of Chancellor Kohl's Christian Democrats broke ranks and voted with the liberal Free Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats.

Almost as soon as the parliamentary vote was announced, a group of outraged conservative MPs signalled their intention to appeal to the constitutional court on the issue. The Catholic church expressed horror at the decision and vowed to have it overturned.

The court said that by granting the preliminary injunction it was not prejudging the abortion law itself. The decision made 'no conclusions about the prospective result of the main hearing (later this year),' a spokesman said.

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