Fundamentalists in front of a counseling center: pray against abortion

Opponents of abortion molest pregnant women in front of counseling centers. The traffic light wants to prevent that.

A man with a placard

There is now a word for the siege in front of the advice centers: “pavement harassment”. Photo: Alexander Pohl/imago

FRANKFURT AM MAIN/BERLIN taz | On Wednesday, at 1 p.m. sharp, an elderly man and four women parked themselves in front of the Pro Familia office in Frankfurt. Another woman in sunglasses kneels on the cold pavement. She has her purse set up in front of her like a protective shield. Next to it is a milk carton with a straw. The man gives the prayer leader.

The square is characterized by magnificent palm trees, in the south the view of the Frankfurt skyline, opposite the noble community center of the Palmengarten with park and water fountain. Actually, this is a peaceful place. But when the “vigils for the unborn life” set up here, it often becomes unpeaceful.

The opponents of abortion come from the circle of the arch-Catholic Croatian community. They murmur prayers and chants to the Virgin Mary incessantly. Each “Our Father” is followed by an “Ave Maria”, finally a creed and then the whole thing starts all over again. They let rosary beads slide through their hands. If they then sing pious songs in shrill voices, they disrupt the conversations in the office.

The prayers are part of 40 Days for Life, a US-based campaign against abortion rights. Since 2017, they have also been holding regular vigils in Germany in front of institutions such as Pro Familia, for 40 days, this year in Pforzheim, Stuttgart and Munich in addition to Frankfurt.

There is no way around the protests

As of this Wednesday, the self-appointed guardians have not yet brought back posters with glorifying photos of fetuses in the womb, no baby dolls. But that will come. It was like that in all previous years. Whether employees or unintentionally pregnant women: If you want to get into the counseling center, you have to get past them.

A large rally of feminist organizations in front of Pro Familia is planned for the afternoon. September 28th is the International Safe Abortion Dayat which people in many German cities also demand the right to a safe abortion.

The counseling centers have little recourse against the harassment. The Hessian Greens had their Wiesbaden coalition partner CDU issued a state ordinancewith which the intrusive confession in the environment of advice centers should become taboo once and for all.

But in March the Hessian Administrative Court overturned a corresponding order from the city. Although the VGH recognized a “sensitive area of ​​activity”, the high court said that women are entitled to “no protection against confrontation” on the way to counseling from unwanted views.

Traffic light sees need for action

The parliamentary director of the SPD parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Katja Mast, sees the vigils as an unreasonable nuisance. “The women who go to a counseling center have to do this because they need a counseling certificate if they want to have an abortion,” said Mast. “They are in an extreme situation and I think it is unbearable that they are being observed and spoken to by anti-abortionists.”

In Mast’s Pforzheim constituency, opponents of abortion regularly besiege the Pro Familia counseling center with children’s coffins and stylized fetuses. And there, too, the Mannheim Administrative Court has just received a ban on such vigils.

She also sees a need for action, said Federal Women’s Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) on Wednesday. Because of these loud and escalating protests, people sometimes no longer dared to go to the advice centers. “This has nothing to do with the right to demonstrate,” emphasized the minister. Rather, it is about “threats to people who want to visit the appropriate facilities”.

The traffic light government wants to implement a project from the coalition agreement before the end of this year: nationwide, pavement nuisance is to be punished uniformly as an administrative offence.

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