Pressure from Pope John Paul II and politicians prompted German bishops to actively forbid women to have abortions. Previously, Catholic bishops were integrated into an abortion counseling system that provided women with permission slips to have an abortion.
Certificates–given by the Red Cross, church groups, and other state health centers–are required by German law, confirming that a woman has been fully informed and counseled before ending her pregnancy.
The Pope issued a statement that the certificates, which permit abortion to occur, directly conflicted with the Catholic Church’s anti-choice opinion. As a result of the pressure on Catholic bishops, they have decided to add a phrase at the bottom of the certificate that reads “This certificate cannot be used for the carrying out of a legal abortion.” However, all of the necessary information will still be on the certificate that is required for a woman to receive an abortion. It is not known how many hospitals and clinics will not accept certificates issued by the Catholic Church, which will prevent a woman from terminating her pregnancy.
The deputy party chairwoman of the Social Democrats, Renate Schmidt, commented that the phrase added by the bishops is “a trick that burdens women in need.” Catholic bishops who oppose the addition of this clause added that this could possibly stop women from seeking counseling from the Catholic Church if the certificates are invalidated by this clause.