Reforming Sex: The German Movement for Birth Control and Abortion Reform, 1920-1950

By Atina Grossmann | Go to book overview

— four —
"Your Body Belongs to You"

Abortion and the 1931 Campaign
Against Paragraph 218

Oh, I am a valuable thing,
Everybody cares about me:
The church, state, doctors, judges—
For nine months,
But when those nine months are past ...
Well, then I have to look out for myself.

KURT TUCHOLSKYI

If my economic circumstances permit me to have a child, then I shall have one. If this is not the case, then I know what I have to do. Whatever the Pope proclaims does not concern us.

Letter in AIZ from F. FRANZISKA, age 28, metal worker 2

On New Year's Eve, 1930, in Rome, Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical denouncing birth control and abortion. A clear attack on the "new woman" and the "new" smaller family of the 1920s, Casti Connubii ( On Christian Marriage) insisted on women's subordinate position within the family and condemned non-procreative sex and the false freedom of female emancipation. The pope reminded states of their obligation to protect the weak and unborn, and specifically warned against the "pernicious practice" of eugenics. 3

In Germany, the papal pronouncement provoked a swift reaction from the Communist party and its allies in the sex reform and independent women's movement, providing the initial catalyst for what would become a highly visible and militant mass movement demanding women's right to abortion and the repeal of paragraph 218. At a time when the Social Democratic and Communist parties were attacking each other as the primary enemy and the fragile fabric of Weimar democracy was rapidly unraveling, the movement against paragraph 218 effected a brief and unparalleled alliance amongst liberal and radical lawyers, doctors, intellectuals, artists, Social Democrats, Com

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