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German court affirms the right of the people to pray outside of abortion clinics


“It follows from the fundamental right to freedom of assembly that the holders of this right, in particular the organiser, may determine the place, time, type and content of the assembly. Prohibitions for the purpose of preventing certain expressions of opinion because of their content are all the more excluded.”


A federal court in Germany has ruled that the city of Pforzheim violated the right to freedom of assembly when it banned a group from praying outside an abortion clinic, even as the country’s Federal Minister for Family Affairs seeks to implement bans on prayers outside of abortion clinics.

Quick Facts

In 2019 the city of Pforzheim banned a group from performing a 40-day prayer service outside of a Pro Familia abortion facility, which is the German branch of Planned Parenthood. The group 40 Days for Life wanted to pray near the abortion clinic for the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Despite being across a four-lane road from the clinic, critics claim these prayer vigils and protests interfered with women’s ability to get abortions.

In August 2022 the Mannheim Administrative Court ruled in favor of the pro-life protestors. The city appealed, leading to a ruling from the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig confirming the right of protestors to pray outside of abortion clinics. The court wrote,

“It follows from the fundamental right to freedom of assembly that the holders of this right, in particular the organiser, may determine the place, time, type and content of the assembly. Prohibitions for the purpose of preventing certain expressions of opinion because of their content are all the more excluded.”

Pavica Vojnović, the leader of 40 Days, reacted to the decision by saying, “I’m truly relieved. Our prayers really help, as affected women have told us over and over. I am grateful that we can continue our prayer vigils. Every human life is precious and deserves protection.”

Tomislav Cunovic, the lawyer for Vojnović, stated,

“Freedom of assembly and expression are cornerstones of democracy and the rule of law. That is why blanket bans on prayer assemblies based on mere allegations are contrary to fundamental rights. The courts have recognised this. Standing up for unborn children and peacefully expressing this opinion in front of abortion facilities cannot be banned by powerful lobby groups like pro familia.”

The ruling comes even as Germany’s Federal Minister for Family Affairs is pushing even harder to ban prayer near abortion clinics. The minister Lisa Paus stated, “Women must have unhindered access to counseling facilities and facilities that perform abortions.”

She asserted that prayer vigils are “border crossings and unacceptable interference in women’s highly personal decisions,” adding that “The federal government will take legal measures to counter this. We are proposing an extension of the Pregnancy Conflict Act to make unhindered access to counselling centres explicitly required by law.”

Paus has also lobbied for decriminalizing abortion. Women can get an abortion in Germany but they must first receive mandatory counseling regarding aborting their child and then only up to 12 weeks.

Dr. Felix Böllmann, director of European advocacy for ADF International, stated,

“The court in Leipzig has once again made clear that peaceful prayer vigils cannot be banned. In view of the clear findings of the court, the federal government would be well advised to abandon its plans to massively restrict fundamental rights in the vicinity of abortion organisations.”

The ruling comes months after members of Parliament in the U.K. voted to expand “buffer zones” to any abortion clinic in England or Wales, prohibiting even silent prayer within 150 meters (nearly 500 feet) around an abortion facility. Several pro-lifers, including a priest and an Army veteran, have since been arrested for praying on the sidewalk near abortion clinics.

It is sad how far Western civilization has fallen in its defense, or non-defense, of free speech and free assembly, all in the name of enabling infanticide. But let’s give credit to this one brave, insightful German court for recognizing that one small step towards silencing dissent is a giant step towards tyranny. Praying in front of or near abortion clinics or offering to counsel or give material on alternatives to abortion to women does not stop them from killing their child. That isn’t why authorities implement such laws. They do so because they want women to abort their children, and they do not want women to hear that there are other options or be encouraged by others to keep their child and thus change their mind. And they certainly don’t want the power of God showing up, changing hearts, and stopping the abortion-industrial complex from making money.

They do not want to hear the truth or for women to feel guilt about killing their child. It’s just like when Stephen attempted to proclaim the truth of the Gospel to a group of Jews. Their response?

“…they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

–Acts 7:57-58

Stephen was not harming anyone, only speaking the truth that would save them. When they stoned him, Stephen still reacted in love. Verses 59-60 say, “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep.”

Similar to Stephen, those who pray outside abortion clinics or try to counsel women don’t have hate in their hearts, only concern for a mother and her child. The world doesn’t want to hear the truth about its actions, however, and will do anything to silence Christians. That’s why Christians must keep standing up for the truth, no matter what others say or do.

Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.