It was refreshing to see Liam Fox, Defence Secretary, saying last night that he would support any measure that lowered the British abortion rate.
He and others like him would be well advised to look at the German system.
Germany has an abortion rate of 8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 per year. By contrast Britain’s rate is more than double this at 17.
European countries with laws requiring the offer of counseling or a cooling off period before abortion have abortion rates on average that are a third lower than those, like the UK, which don’t.
In German counselling is designed specifically to protect the unborn life, so the counsellor is required to inform the woman that the unborn have a right to life, and to try and convince her to continue with the pregnancy. The counsellor cannot however force this choice on the woman.
Germany also has a three day cooling off period of reflection after a decision to have an abortion is made before it can be carried out. Furthermore the counseling must by done by someone other than the doctor (or agency) doing the abortion.
The provisions are laid out in Section 219 of the German Criminal Code in a section titled ‘Counseling of Pregnant Women in an Emergency or Conflict Situation’ as follows:
(1) The counseling serves to protect unborn life. It should be guided by efforts to encourage the woman to continue the pregnancy and to open her to the prospects of a life with the child; it should help her to make a responsible and conscientious decision. The woman must thereby be aware, that the unborn child has its own right to life with respect to her at every stage of the pregnancy and that a termination of pregnancy can therefore only be considered under the legal order in exceptional situations, when carrying the child to term would give rise to a burden for the woman which is so serious and extraordinary that it exceeds the reasonable limits of sacrifice. The counseling should, through advice and assistance, contribute to overcoming the conflict situation which exists in connection with the pregnancy and remedying an emergency situation. Further details shall be regulated by the Act on Pregnancies in Conflict Situations.
(2) The counseling must take place pursuant to the Act on Pregnancies in Conflict Situations through a recognized Pregnancy Conflict Counseling Agency. After the conclusion of the counseling on the subject, the counseling agency must issue the pregnant woman a certificate including the date of the last counseling session and the name of the pregnant woman in accordance with the Act on Pregnancies in Conflict Situations. The physician who performs the termination of pregnancy is excluded from being a counselor.