Shaping Abortion Discourse: Democracy and the Public Sphere in Germany and the United States

By Myra Marx Ferree; William Anthony Gamson et al. | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER ONE
Two Related Stories

Es [das sich im Mutterleib entwickelnde Leben] genießt grundsätzlich für die gesamte Dauer der Schwangerschaft Vorrang vor dem Selbst best immungsrecht der Schwangeren. It [the life developing in the mother'sbody] fundamentally takes priority over the pregnant woman's right to self-determination throughout the entire period of pregnancy.

(German Constitutional Court 1975, BVerG 1,44)

The right to privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment'sconcept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action or in the Ninth Amendment'sreservation of the rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman'sdecision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

(Roe v. Wade 1973, 410 U. S. 177)

At the beginning of a new century, Germany and the United States have arrived at uneasy policy compromises on the vexed issue of abortion. The compromises are in some regards surprisingly similar: In Germany, a woman with an unwanted pregnancy can decide to have an abortion in the first trimester, although she is required to have counseling designed to encourage her to have the child. Access to abortion is relatively simple after a short waiting period. In the United States, the choice of abortion also rests with the woman in the first trimester. The 50 individual states may impose various restrictions as long as these do not place an undue burden on the woman'sdecision to end an unwanted pregnancy.

-3-

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