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German parliament to debate PGD bills

23 May 2011
Appeared in BioNews 608

The German parliament will debate the country’s law on PGD following the introduction of three separate bills on the issue. Two of the bills allow PGD under certain circumstances, the other calls for a total ban.

The current German position on the legality of PGD is unclear. Although PGD is deemed unlawful under the Embryo Protection Law 1990, a Federal Supreme Court ruling in July 2010 acquitted a gynaecologist of the charge of performing an illegal abortion after he carried out PGD on the embryos of a couple he was treating for infertility, discarding the ones that had genetic defects.

The issue of PGD has previously been largely absent from German politics and political parties have been reluctant to take a stand on this issue. Since no party has adopted a position, German MPs have been allowed a 'conscience vote' on the issue.

Early polls have indicated 192 of the 622 members of the lower house confirmed they were in favour of a ban on the use of PGD and 215 members expressed support in allowing PGD if for instance either or both parents have a serious hereditary condition. A further 36 members support PGD under stricter conditions. Chancellor Angela Merkel is in favour of a complete ban.

The German Ethics Council, whose task it is to submit recommendations for legislative action, is divided on the issue of PGD. In early March, half the Council members announced their support for PGD under specific conditions. But eleven members have announced their support for a ban, claiming ‘…PGD is not ethically justified and should be prohibited’.

A vote in the lower house is scheduled for 30 June 2011.

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