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German Law Bans, Allows Abortions

Parliament passed a law Friday making most abortions illegal but in practice letting almost anyone have one, striking a compromise on an issue that bitterly divided the two parts of Germany for five years.

The law allows abortion only when a pregnancy results from rape or threatens the mother’s life. In all other cases, women have to get counseling from a doctor, who must stress “the protection of unborn life.”

But neither women nor doctors who ignore the counseling and carry out the abortion will be punished. If they are poor, health insurance will pay for the abortion.

The law won praise from liberals and conservatives alike.

“It pacifies one side by choosing certain language,” said Susanna Duewel, a spokeswoman for the Greens party, which had sought a more liberal text. “But what it allows in practice is entirely different.”

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