German court approves appeal on prayer ban near abortion clinics


Central Europe


Prayer in front of an abortion clinic in Frankfurt. Photo AFP, Arne Dedert

In the same week that the incoming German coalition published its intention to take “effective measures” against “pavement harassment by anti-abortion activists”, a German court approved the appeal against the ban on silent prayer meetings near an abortion organisation in Pforzheim. The ban can now be disputed in court.

This reports the German Christian news agency IDEA.

The application was made by the life rights activist Pavica Vojnovic. Her lawyer, Felix Böllmann, who works for the Christian human rights organisation Alliance for the Defense of Freedom International (ADF), called the court’s decision in Mannheim encouraging. “We hope it will take this opportunity to uphold freedom of expression, assembly and religion.

The fact that the Pforzheim authorities had banned silent prayer near the abortion counselling centre is not proportionate”, said Bölmann. “Regardless of whether Pavica’s views are shared or not: there should be agreement that the fundamental rights to freedom of opinion, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly enjoy the protection of the Basic Law”, the lawyer added.

The prayer group, existing of around 20 people, gathered twice a year to pray for the women facing abortion. The vigils took place for 40 days each and were held in the surrounding area of abortion clinics. According to ADF, the prayer vigils were peaceful throughout. When monitored by the police at the request of the Pro Familia abortion advisory centre, no violations of any law were found, and yet, the management of the centre requested that the vigil be moved some distance away or banned altogether.


In May of this year, the Karlsruhe Administrative Court dismissed the challenge brought by Vojnovic to lift the restrictions on her prayer vigils.

The leader of the “40 days for life” group in Pforzheim had challenged the ban, citing the right to freedom of religion, assembly and freedom of speech. Her group is currently prohibited from gathering for peaceful prayer within hearing and sight of a “Pro Familia” abortion counselling centre. “Every life is valuable and deserves protection. I am sad that we are prevented from supporting vulnerable women and their unborn children in prayer”, Vojnović said in May to the Catholic News Agency.


It is not clear what the court’s decision means for the plans of the new Traffic Light government in Germany. The coalition agreement speaks about “effective measures” against “pavement harassment by anti-abortion activists”. According to ADF, people like Vojnović could therefore be criminalised under the proposals in the coalition agreement.



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