Redebeitrag Demonstration „Bans off our Bodies“

Berlin, 29.05.2022

Selina Zahn (Mitglied bei Doctors for Choice Germany e.V.) hat bei der Kundgebung „Bans off our Bodies“, die am 29.05.2022 in Berlin stattfand, einen Redebeitrag (eng) gehalten, der im Folgenden nachgelesen werden kann:

Doctors for Choice is a group of doctors and medical students who work towards safe and legal abortions. 

Abortions are widely discussed but we, as medical professionals, experience the subject day to day in its most practical form. Many people have their opinion on abortions. Many of them won’t ever be pregnant themselves. And yet, they think they have the right to decide over other people’s pregnancies. But they are not the ones who suffer the consequences. Under the pretext to save unborn life women are condemned, oppressed and exploited while the reality of their lives is mainly ignored. 

If people really cared to look at the lives of these people as individuals, if they tried to feel how they feel, I’m sure most of them would think differently.

In the medical field, we do experience what it means for our patients to carry an unwanted pregnancy.  We see how criminalization and stigmatization harm those who need to terminate their pregnancy. We see how some must suffer even more because of poverty or racial discrimination, because they have a language barrier, because they fear serious consequences after the abortion or because they have been abused or raped. Most importantly we see how a medically safe and simple procedure can relieve our patients from their pain.

In 1931 the German doctor Else Kienle referred to unwanted pregnancies as “the most terrible and murderous illness of our time”. That was almost 100 years ago but in some ways it’s still true. As doctors it is our duty to care for the wellbeing of our patients. An abortion can be the way to achieve this. It is our job to accompany the women and to provide the best medical care. But we are restrained from meeting our obligations. We are prevented from doing a good job.

Over the last years we all have seen change in abortion policies all over the world. We saw progress as well as setbacks. We were reminded that we can not take the right to abortion and therefore the right to equality for granted. The recent events in the US prove the fragility of these rights. We know how hard people have fought and how much they sacrificed to get to this point.  Their achievements are now in serious danger. Without Roe vs. Wade as a legal foundation more than 20 states in the US are likely to ban abortions immediately. All the members of the supreme court were born before Roe vs. Wade in 1973. They all must remember the impact of illegal and self-induced abortions. We don’t have exact numbers but we know that in the past many got injured or even died because of unsafe abortion.

History has tried to teach us a lesson: If you want to lower the number of abortions, Criminalization is the wrong approach. It is dangerous and inhuman. If we want to reduce unwanted pregnancies, we have to improve sex education and the access to contraception. We have to enable people, not criminalize them.

If so called „pro-life“ activists really cared for the wellbeing of the future children, they should not force them unto someone who can’t or doesn’t want to care for them. Instead, they should use their energy to help those children who are alive and actually need their support. Approximately 400.000 children in the US live in foster care. Many, many more live in poverty.

There are plenty of ways to make this world a better place. Making life harder for pregnant women and pushing them towards illegal abortions is definitely not the way to go. We are lucky that today in Germany almost every pregnant woman can get a medically safe abortion. We are also lucky that the ban on so called „advertisement“ for abortions which means sharing medical information with patients, is finally on the verge of being overturned thanks to the continuous work of doctors and activists. However, abortions are still not legal in Germany and we’re still facing many barriers: 

1. The number of abortion providers has almost halved since 2003. Older doctors retire and they have difficulties finding replacements. Some public hospitals are handed over to catholic institutions which won’t do abortions. Patients sometimes have to travel far to get to the next doctors’s office. Not everyone has money, time and capacities to do so. But the government doesn’t feel responsible to ensure health care in that field although it would be their obligation by law.

2. Anti-abortion activists try to intimidate doctors who choose to perform abortions. They defame them in their workplace or in public. They press charges against them whenever possible and they are successful. Several doctors have been sentenced in the last couple of years.

3. There is a lack in teaching and scientific research. The criminalization and moral denunciation of abortions make people insecure and therefore create a taboo. This lack of knowledge ultimately harms our patients.

4. The criminalization leads to patients having to pay for abortions themselves. Some can apply for a refund if they have a low income. At the same time, keeping the pregnancy and giving birth would be paid for by health services.

5. Women and their doctors still have to make themselves a criminal offender in order to perform an abortion. They stay exempt from punishment under certain conditions. That is, they need to see a counselor and wait three days before they can be treated legally.

The law basically says: we tolerate your abortion, but we condemn you. If you want to abort a pregnancy, you should at least feel guilty. That is unacceptable! 

The World Health Organization has officially stated that the legalization of abortions is crucial for the health of girls and women. Their recommendations say that „medically unnecessary policy barriers to safe abortion, such as criminalization, mandatory waiting times, the requirement that approval must be given by other people or institutions, and limits on when during pregnancy an abortion can take place“ impose a risk on these people. All guidelines, that we currently have in Germany violate against their recommendations. „But that’s not enough“, they say, „as with any other health services, abortion care needs to respect the decisions and needs of women and girls, ensuring that they are treated with dignity and without stigma or judgement.“ 

We will not be satisfied with a new law that allows doctors to inform their patients publicly and therefore doing their jobs. We hope and fight for a new law that legalizes abortions in Germany. But even then, we will not be satisfied. As Audre Lorde once said: „I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.“

The patriarchy is a worldwide problem and therefore our solidarity has to overcome borders. Together, we must stand up against backlash, because there will always be people who want to enhance their power at the cost of other people’s freedom. The right to self-determination is a human right. Therefore, we must continue to fight until anybody can get a safe abortion anywhere and at any time! 

Selina Zahn; Berlin, den 29.05.2022
Redebeitrag Demonstration „Bans off our Bodies“
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