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Lent pro-life volunteers alarmed as Germany considers UK-style censorship zones to criminalise help and prayer near abortion organisations 

  • New draft law would introduce censorship zones in Germany for behaviour that could be perceived as “confusing” or “disturbing” – potentially including prayer
  • Asked about the frequency of “harassment” incidents at abortion facilities that would justify the introduction of censorship zones, the government admitted: “The federal government does not have any concrete numerical findings.”
  • German lawyer Dr. Felix Böllmann: “The German government wants to ban something, but doesn’t know what or why”

Berlin (15 February 2024) – During Lent, pro-life volunteers again set to the streets to pray for women and their unborn children. In Germany, however, a new bill plans to introduce vaguely defined censorship zones, banning behaviour that could be perceived as “confusing” or “disturbing” within 100 Meters of abortion organizations with fines up to 5,000€.

The bill has already caused confusion due to its vague wording and disputed necessity. In response to a parliamentary question seeking information on how, when, and where problematic incidents of hindrance or harassment near abortion facilities occurred, the responsible Ministry recently admitted: “The federal government does not have any concrete numerical findings” that would support the need for such a far-reaching bill.

“Thoughtcrimes” in the UK as a warning example

Whereas harassment is already illegal, free speech advocates warn that the language of the bill could criminalise a simple offer of help made to women in crisis pregnancies, as well as prayer. In the UK, where censorship zones have already been introduced, charitable volunteer Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for praying silently in her head near an abortion facility, as seen in a viral video. With support from ADF International, Vaughan-Spruce was acquitted in court; but two further individuals currently await trial for the same “thoughtcrime”. ADF International is supporting their legal defence.

“The right to peacefully pray is protected by international and national law. No matter one’s opinion on abortion, everyone suffers when we start to censor the right to speak freely, pray, or engage in consensual conversations.  The federal government wants to ban something but doesn’t know what or why. This law doesn’t ban “confusion”, it creates more of it – both for citizens trying to understand the law and police officers who will have to enforce any vague new prohibitions,” noted Dr. Felix Böllmann, German lawyer and Director of European Advocacy for ADF International.

The draft bill is currently with the Federal Council and is still open for amendments. It will be voted on in the parliament.

A new video features ADF International spokesperson Ludwig Brühl explaining the detrimental effects of censorship zones: “The government wants to ban certain opinions in an area the size of almost five football pitches.

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Federal minister Lisa Paus, who is pushing for the bill, said: “if you harass people with expressions of opinion that they clearly don’t want to hear, then this will become an offence punishable with a fine of up to €5,000.” Brühl disagrees: “Of course harassment is rightly prohibited – and has been for a long time. But this is just an excuse to marginalize, punish and censor certain opinions. Pro-life volunteers are there to pray, or to offer information about help available to women who would like to consider other options than abortion.”

ADF International conducts global advocacy for free speech. In the UK and Germany, ADF International lawyers have successfully supported several pro-life volunteers who faced criminal proceedings for their silent prayers.

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