Abortion is illegal in every western nation

The star action & its consequences

At the time I was living in France, where I worked as a freelance correspondent and was active in the Paris women's movement. But while women all over the western world went to the barricades, the German Gretchen kept quiet. So quiet that it's even the Brigitte was too good. In spring 1971 she complained: “German women do not burn brassiere and wedding dresses, storm beauty competitions and anti-emancipation editorial offices, do not demand the abolition of marriage and do not write manifestos to destroy men. There are no witches, no Lilith sisters, as in America, not even Dolle Minnas with wit as in Holland, there are no angry pamphlets, no combative magazine. There is no anger. "

The mood in Germany was still good and quiet

A few weeks later it exploded, the anger of German women. When on June 6, 1971 thestar with the title “We drifted!” appeared, all dams broke. At last. Finally the women were talking! The 374 who were the first to break the taboo soon turned into thousands, even hundreds of thousands, who demanded: § 218 must go! Because he threatens millions of women and also the doctors who have abortions with prison. He incapacitates, intimidates, threatens. Put an end to fear! No more shame!

And the protest against abortion did not stop there. Directly linked to this was the fear of sexuality (not least because of the fear of unwanted pregnancies) and the problems with men in bed and in the office. The so-called “218 groups” were formed throughout the country, and women of all ages and all origins poured into them.

Eight months later, on March 11, 1972, 450 women from 40 West German and West Berlin women's groups met in Frankfurt for the first “Federal Women's Congress”. And one day later, on March 12th, the speakers of this women's congress declared over the microphone: “Women have to organize themselves because they have to recognize their own problems and learn to represent their interests. (…) We exclude men from our groups because we have made the experience that the paternalism and oppression that we experience in all areas of life are reproduced in mixed groups. (...) Women must become a power factor within the upcoming disputes. "

This officially announced the "founding" of the German women's movement. And by the way, it is probably a unique German phenomenon that the departure of women was not only spontaneous, but was also announced again by declaration.

First, however, it is about the initial spark for the uprising of women, about the public, provocative confession: “We have an abortion”. So I want to tell you how the 374's roll call came about in the first place. It must have been the end of April. The phone rang in my apartment in Rue d'Alesia in the 14th arrondissement. On the other end of the line was Jean Moreau, my colleague from Nouvel Observateur. On April 11, 1971, the left-liberal weekly newspaper published “the list of 374 French women who have the courage to sign the manifesto: I have had an abortion!”. The political provocation was the idea of ​​the committed young journalist, and we - a dozen new feminists - made it our business.

Would an action like the one in France even be possible?

With the result that the 374's confession not only caused an uproar in the Grande Nation, but also caused an international stir, but now Jean, the father of the thought, was worried. "Listen, Alice," he said. “A strange German magazine called us, Jasmin or something like that. They want to recreate the self-confession. But I suspect they're just trying to turn it into a publicity stunt. Can't you do something? "

I only thought about it for a moment. Then I picked up the phone and dialed the number of the S.tern-Editor Winfried Maaß. As a freelance correspondent in Paris, I sometimes came into contact with him. Of course, Maaß knew about the campaign that made international headlines. And when I asked him whether the star would go along with it if I brought him 300 to 400 signatures from German women who accuse themselves of having an abortion, Maaß didn't think twice: "If you can do it - immediately!"

A month later, the star had the list of 376 women on the table. And looking back, I'm still amazed to this day how a little thing like a phone call can change a whole life. In this case, not just my life, but that of many women.

But one after the other. I had been back in France for two years and had been one of the activists of the Paris women's movement for a few months. But I remembered the Frankfurt “Weiberrat” and the legendary tomato that a comrade had thrown at her patriarchal comrade in 1968. So I assumed that I just had to ring the doorbell for the German women's movement and we would have our abortion manifesto.

But far from it. At the Frankfurt Women's Council, whose two or three dozen members were busily doing “capital training” according to Marx, I received a cool rejection; One does not want to take part in such a “reformist” and “petty-bourgeois” action. With the Munich “Red Women” I almost failed if a handful of women had not been fed up with the chapter training there. Only the “Socialist Women's League West Berlin”, which was tightly organized under the influence of the GDR, joined the group, probably in the hope of making contact with “the masses”.

Schwarzer only gave the signatures last night

About half of the 374 signatures came together. The rest was word of mouth: from neighbor to neighbor, from colleague to colleague, from friend to friend. And I traveled around the country collecting the signatures. Because my deal with that star was strict. In return for the signatures, I asked the magazine: a collective cover picture (no single star on the cover), the unabridged copy of the political appeal and the publication of my report on the campaign. I wasn't naive, after all. It was clear to me that I had to be on my guard so that the action didn't turn into sensationalism.

So I gave the star the 374 signatures on the very last night of the editorial deadline. Only when, after tough haggling, could be absolutely sure that the 374's self-confession would be presented appropriately, did I hand over the portfolio with the signatures. It was now two in the morning ...

The bomb burst on June 6, 1971, just two months after Nouvel Observateur. The Federal Republic was upside down. Because despite the liberalization debate from 1969 onwards, the subject of abortion was still a total taboo. A woman who drifted usually did so in total solitude. As a rule, she never talked about it with her best friend or her own mother, and often not even with her own husband. A woman who had an abortion either had the money for Switzerland - or she risked her dignity and sometimes her life with illegal abortion doctors and on the kitchen table of angel makers.

At the time, illegal abortions were estimated at half a million, only in the Federal Republic. (In 2008 there were only 114,000 in all of Germany; that is, hundreds of thousands less unwanted pregnancies thanks to education and increased self-confidence of women.) An illegitimate child was a disgrace at the time, and husbands could forbid their wives to work in Germany. Only one in five women took the pill, and many men found condoms "castrating".

The 374 women then took an immense risk

Abortion women face up to five years imprisonment - but in reality, § 218 has not been applied for a long time. A total of 276 women were convicted of illegal abortion in 1969. Written law and a practiced sense of justice therefore diverged miles apart. Actually, Section 218 was only about intimidation and humiliation of the women - and the sympathetic doctors.

“I have had an abortion and demand the right to do so for every woman!” Now 374 women publicly admitted; including some who had never done it, but played through in their minds (like me). To this day, I admire the courage of the 373 women who signed the appeal with me. Neither of them knew whether the police would not be at the door tomorrow (which they did in some cases), whether they would lose their jobs, whether their neighbors would still speak to them, whether their husbands would part with them.

And the much quoted celebrities? These 16 (of 374) well-known women - including Romy Schneider, Senta Berger, Sabine Sinjen, Gisela Elsner and Veruschka von Lehndorff - risked almost more than the unknown: namely their reputation and their commitments. But the daring was worth it.

The 374's avalanche turned into an avalanche that swept away thousands. And it was the initial spark for the New Women's Movement. The women started talking, finally. From her fear of unwanted pregnancies, from her overshadowed sexuality (“During this time I just think about it”), from her loneliness. In the book I wrote about the abortion ban in the fall of 1971, only one of the 49 abortions carried out by 18 women had the husband assisting his wife.

And the media? They reacted differently: from approving (The timet) to malicious. Bild drove a pro-and-con zigzag course (since you can never make a mass paper against people in the long run) that Southgerman newspaper castigated the "exhibitionism" of the confessors and the Frankfurter Rundschau the “consumerism” of women and the “destruction of unworthy life”.

Which brings us to the role of the Catholic Church, for which abortion women are "murderers" to this day.It had already managed to stop the deadline solution promised to women by the social-liberal government in 1969 (women's right to abortion in the first three months) through organized protest. Instead of finally reforming the hundred-year-old law, the Social Democrats rowed back. Just like in the 2009 debate about so-called “late abortions” and today with pre-implantation diagnosis (PGD).

At the same time, the church itself does so with “developing life”. In 1869 Pope Pius IX issued the verdict that the male fetus had a soul from the 40th day, the female only from the 80th day. Now in the 21st century, the church, via the CDU / CSU and parts of the SPD, FDP and the Greens, has even further restricted the so-called medical indication - from danger to life for the mother - via the back door of “late abortions”.

And the debate about PGD in 2011 puts the right to abortion completely on the defensive. Some of the MPs are pleading from all parties - including the SPD, FDP and the Greens! - but in all seriousness that the fraction of a millimeter small cluster of cells of a fertilized egg may not be examined for serious, hereditary diseases before implantation in the womb, since this is "developing life". The Vatican could not argue in a more rigid and misogynist way.

Thanks to pressure from the Catholic Church, the deadline solution originally adopted in 1974 turned into an indication solution with an obligation to provide advice as early as the mid-1970s in Germany: grace instead of law. And the taboo breakers, whose courage it is thanks to that abortion women at least no longer have to risk their lives in Germany today, are nowadays often misunderstood: as frivolous or even cynical. The provocative slogan “My belly is mine” - which incidentally came up later - is intended to serve as proof of this.

But back then, on that memorable June 6, 1971, everyone caught their breath at the inhumanity of this so selfless public confession. After all, it was not about promoting abortion, but about humanizing the circumstances of inevitable abortions. Because an unintentionally pregnant woman has an abortion, regardless of the circumstances. The question was and is not the if, but only the how of abortions: legal and with medical help - or illegal and in mortal danger.

The Stern campaign was never about promoting abortion

When Henri Nannen, whom I only got to know personally much later, gave the press conference appropriate to the scandal on that memorable June 6th, I was long back on the train to Paris. Mission accomplished. I had my initiative role in the appeal of the 374 in mine star–Report deliberately obscured. In the end, I saw myself less as a journalist and more as a mediator between French and German women.

The fact that only a few months later, in autumn 1971, I published my first book on "Women against § 218" was due to the fact that, from my point of view, the German debate on § 218 went very wrong very quickly. Because suddenly there was only talk of the “soul of the fetus”, of the “aspects of population policy” and the “legal interest to be protected”. But not about the dignity and self-determination of women. And we committed journalists - and back then we were many! - were now practically prohibited from writing. As women, we were considered “too self-conscious”.

Today Germany has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, right after Ireland and Poland. In our other neighboring countries, on the other hand, the deadline solution has of course been in place for a long time. In France, the country of origin of the protest, Simone Veil, as the conservative family minister, introduced the unlimited deadline solution in 1975. And it never occurs to anyone there to even question this fundamental right of women.

But at least the fight for the right to abortion was the trigger for the new women's movement.

Alice Schwarzer