‘Black day for democracy’: German pro-lifers condemn ‘censorship zones’

German Parliament building The German Parliament building in Berlin. | Credit: canadastock/Shutterstock

Leading German pro-life advocates are criticizing a new law passed by Germany’s federal Parliament on Friday to establish 100-meter “buffer zones” around abortion facilities, calling it an attack on democracy and an attempt to silence Christians and other pro-lifers.

The proposed Pregnancy Conflict Act (Schwangerschaftskonfliktgesetz) claims to protect pregnant women from what supporters call “sidewalk harassment” by pro-life activists near counseling centers and facilities that perform abortions.

However, the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom has repeatedly warned of legislation to establish German censorship zones.

‘A black day for democracy’

Cornelia Kaminski, federal chairwoman of Action Right to Life for All, issued a scathing rebuke of the law on July 5, calling it “a frontal attack on the foundations of our democracy.”

She warned that praying for women in need within a 100-meter (328-foot) radius of abortion facilities will now be punishable by a fine of 5,000 euros (about $5,400).

In a statement released Friday, Kaminski declared the day “a black day for democracy” and criticized the government’s approach to legislation.

She said the law would unconstitutionally restrict a select group of people’s rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and religion.

The pro-life leader also highlighted the lack of evidence supporting the need for such a law. “Not a single case is on record where an affected woman actually filed a complaint because of this,” Kaminski stated.

In a similar vein, representatives of the German Doctors for Life called the law “a massive encroachment on the rights to freedom of religion, opinion, and assembly, which must be granted to pro-lifers just as much as to environmental and climate protectors.”

The medical doctors Kai Witzel and Julia Kim published a statement on July 5 arguing that courts have consistently found no legal basis for claims of harassment by pro-life activists.

“The claim that people peacefully advocating for the right to life are preventing medical staff in abortion facilities from practicing their profession is far-fetched.”

Alexandra Linder, chair of the Federal Association for the Right to Life, told Catholic newspaper Tagespost the parliamentary debate included “untruths and shock images” about pro-lifers allegedly harassing women. She argued the real motivation behind the law is to establish abortion as “normal health care.”

Previous legal challenges

The new restrictions follow local attempts in German cities.

In Frankfurt this March, pro-life advocates reported being harassed and threatened by abortion activists while praying about 100 feet from an International Planned Parenthood Federation facility. Police were criticized for their slow response and alleged failure to intervene.

In 2019, the city of Pforzheim banned prayer vigils near an abortion center, but that prohibition was overturned in August 2022.

More in Europe

The court ruled that authorities could restrict assemblies only if public safety was endangered.

Following the sentence, Felix Böllmann, senior counsel for ADF International, said at the time: “The silencing of pro-life expression, including prayer, is a recurring issue across Europe. When the government starts prohibiting silent prayer in certain places, we enter the business of policing thought crimes — a frightening proposition for all. It is imperative that we diligently uphold our fundamental freedoms in public spaces, standing against attempts to undermine peaceful assembly and the expression of one’s convictions.”

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