German health minister sparks row saying pro-abortion lobby cares ‘more for animal rights than human life’
July 26, 2020
One of the chief rivals to become Angela Merkel’s eventual successor has provoked a row in her coalition government with an outspoken attack on abortion rights campaigners.
Jens Spahn, newly promoted to the cabinet as health minister, spoke out against calls to lift a German ban on advertising by abortion clinics.
“Some of those who now want to promote abortions are uncompromising enough when it comes to animal rights,” he said. “But in this debate they not longer take into account that it’s a question of human life.”
The incendiary remarks provoked an immediate backlash, and were condemned by Mrs Merkel’s coalition partners from the centre-Left Social Democrats (SPD).
“I’m surprised the health minister continues to comment on extraneous topics when we still have so much work on health ahead of us,” Karl Lauterbach, an SPD health spokesman said. “His remarks on abortion are an escalation that makes the debate even more difficult. We don’t need this tone.”
“Mr Spahn is once again trying to make a name for himself with hardline positions, this time at the expense of women facing emergencies and crises of conscience,” Anton Hofreiter of the opposition Green Party said.
It is the second row to rock Mrs Merkel’s new coalition in its first seven days in office. Horst Seehofer, the interior minister, set off a similar controversy last week when he declared “Islam does not belong in Germany”.
Mrs Merkel was forced to bring the conservative Mr Seehofer and Mr Spahn into her cabinet in order to win backing for a new coalition, and their remarks she may be in for a turbulent time as she seeks to contain their more hardline instincts.
Mr Spahn in particular is known to harbour ambitions of succeeding the chancellor when she eventually steps down as leader of the Christian Democrat party (CDU). Despite being openly gay, he has carved out a role as the darling of the part’s conservative wing.
His remarks came amid moves by Mrs Merkel’s coalition partners and opposition parties to lift the longstanding advertising ban on abortions.
Germany legalised abortion in 1992 but strict laws prevent doctors or clinics from advertising their services or even providing information about them. Last year a German gynaecologist was fined €6,000 (£5,250) because her website offered information on abortions.
Mrs Merkel’s party has opposed moves to change the law, which Mr Spahn described as “a hard won social compromise”. But many in the party has offered a more conciliatory tone.
Mr Spahn’s chief rival as Mrs Merkel’s eventual successor, party chairman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said she opposed lifting the ban completely but was open to “a solution that gives women better access to the necessary information”.