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

By Atina Grossmann | Go to book overview

Epilogue

As this book goes to press, abortion and paragraph 218 continue to agitate German politics. Current debates and dilemmas in united Germany, in both the "new" and the "old" states of the Federal Republic, about abortion, pro‐ natalism, and social welfare, are shadowed and shaped by the long history of both conflict and consensus—much of it discussed in this book—about the central place in German politics of motherhood and eugenics.

After the upheaval of the immediate postwar years, and the renewed commitment to criminalization in both Germanies after 1950, the issue was relatively dormant until the mid-1960s. By then, the GDR government was urging more lenient interpretation of the law by the abortion commissions, apparently laying the groundwork for relegalization in 1972. It had become dear that broad access to abortion was essential to East Germany's program of economic integration of women into the work force as well as raising the birth rate. I In the West also, strict enforcement lapsed in the late 1960s, and the Grand Coalition under Willy Brandt brought renewed attention to abortion politics, both in and out of parliament. But not until the 1970s did a new wave of feminists excavate the history of the Weimar campaigns, reprinting Käthe Kollwitz's and Alice Lex-Nerlinger's posters, and republishing tracts such as Maria und der Paragraph to promote their own struggle for abolition of paragraph 218.

In many ways their mobilization bore a remarkable resemblance to the 1931 campaign, recycling many of the same tactics pioneered 40 years earlier, of self-incrimination campaigns and speak-outs in press and rallies, petition drives, and delegate conferences. In June 1971, 375 prominent women an

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