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Germany parliament approves late-term abortion restrictions

[JURIST] The German Bundestag [official website, in German] voted Wednesday in favor of heightened requirements for late-term abortions including a three-day waiting period and a mandatory psychological evaluation. Current law in Germany outlaws abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy [text, PDF, in German] except in circumstances in which the mental or physical health of the mother is threatened or when the fetus is severely affected and may not be viable. The amendments to the Conflicts of Pregnancy Act [materials, in German], approved by a vote of 326-234, require doctors to counsel pregnant women seeking a late-term abortion about possible medical and psychological consequences and impose a three-day consideration period between the counseling session and the procedure. The legislation is aimed at reducing the number of late-term abortions currently being sought by encouraging pregnant women to change their minds. Doctors failing to impose the new regulations may be fined [Local report]. Some members of the Social Democratic Party [party website, in German] urged for a more flexible waiting period [DW report] that could be determined on a case-by-case basis. The new regulations will go into effect in 2010.

Abortion laws in Europe vary, with most countries allowing the procedure to be performed up to twelve weeks [BBC backgrounder] into pregnancy. In March, Spain proposed changes to liberalize their abortion laws, sparking widespread protests [JURIST reports]. In 1992, the US Supreme Court approved a 24-hour waiting period [opinion text] imposed by Pennsylvania for obtaining an abortion, holding that such a requirement was not an undue burden on the pregnant woman.

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