„Unsere Stellung zu diesem Problem der Abtreibung ist ganz klar”

Parlamentarierinnen der SPD und KPD zur Abtreibungsdebatte 1926

Anna-Josepha Kriesche studiert Gymnasiallehramt Geschichte und Französisch an der Friedrich-Schiller Universität Jena. Diesen Text schrieb sie im Rahmen des Seminars „Sexualitäten der Revolution – Revolutionen der Sexualität“ (im WiSe 20/21 bei Pia Marzell) als Hausarbeit und überarbeitete ihn für den Blog. In ihrer anstehenden Abschlussarbeit wird sie sich weiterhin mit der Thematik, dann in Zeitschriften der SPD, auseinandersetzen.

„Eine Schwangere, welche ihre Frucht vorsätzlich abtreibt oder im Mutterleib tötedt, wird mit Zuchthaus bis zu fünf Jahren bestraft. Sind mildernde Umstände vorhanden, so tritt Gefängnißstrafe nicht unter sechs Monaten ein. Dieselben Strafvorschriften finden auf denjenigen Anwendung, welcher mit Einwilligung der Schwangeren die Mittel zu der Abtreibung oder Tödtung bei ihr angewandt oder ihr beigebracht hat.“[1]

Seit der §218 erstmals im StGB von 1871 auftauchte, wurden Debatten um dessen Änderung geführt. Als ein Höhepunkt dieser Diskussionen kann sicherlich die breite außerparlamentarische Protestbewegung politisch engagierter Frauen, Künstler*innen und Ärzt*innen in der Weimarer Republik bezeichnet werden, die sich Ende der 1920er herausbildete. Diese öffentliche Protestbewegung formierte sich aus dem Bund für Mutterschutz und Sexualreform, der feministischen Frauenliga sowie dem Bund deutscher Ärztinnen. Im Reichstag waren es Parlamentarierinnen aus SPD und KPD wie Marie Juchacz, Lore Agnes oder Martha Arendsee, die sich seit 1920 mit Anträgen für eine Strafrechtsänderung einsetzten, und entsprechend die Positionen ihrer Parteien in der Abtreibungsdebatte und in den Verhandlungen im Mai 1926 vertraten.

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Marital Rape and Women’s Rights in the Federal Republic of Germany

Jane Freeland is an historian of women and gender in modern Germany. She is currently a research fellow at the German Historical Institute London, where she coordinates the International Standing Working Group on Medialization and Empowerment. She holds a PhD from Carleton University (Canada) and is completing a monograph on domestic violence activism in divided Berlin.

On April 14, 1976, the illustrated news magazine Stern ran a special report on rape in marriage in the Federal Republic of Germany. “Rape,” it began, “It was until today a matter of sexual offenders, perverts, criminals. …for the first time it is now revealed that nowhere is rape committed more than in the marital bed.”[1] Surveying women throughout the Federal Republic on sex and intimacy in marriage, including their experiences of marital rape, for the first time the report revealed that in one in five marriages in West Germany women were raped by their husbands. It further showed that in a majority of cases marital rape was violent, and closely connected with physical and emotional abuse. “The bed,” it seemed to reporter Ulrich Schippke “has become a battleground.”[2]

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A Brief History of Seduction

Chloë Kennedy is Senior Lecturer in Criminal Law at the University of Edinburgh. Her main research interests are criminal law, legal theory, legal history and the relationships between these areas. Her work also focuses on law and gender. Chloë is currently writing a genealogy of legal responses to inducing intimacy. This research is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Research Leader Fellowship grant (AH/S013180/1). 

Seduction is a slippery concept. Once associated with disloyalty and disobedience, seduction is now more commonly associated with the ‘art’ of persuading another person to have sex. Yet even in this context, seduction can refer to anything from gentle persuasion to substantial manipulation. Partly because of this, attitudes towards seduction are often ambivalent. Practices at one end of the seduction spectrum are considered innocuous, or even valuable, while practices at the other end are considered impermissible and condemned as such. Adding a final layer of complexity, it is not always clear where a particular practice belongs on this spectrum and answers to this question vary across time and place.

In this post, I explore the Scottish delict (i.e. civil wrong) of seduction and look at how, for two centuries,[1] it was used to proscribe certain ways of persuading another person to have sex. Though there is much to say about seduction, in this post I focus solely on the conduct that was prohibited. Based on an examination of ~450 seduction cases, I want to suggest that the action of seduction is best understood as a wrong that involved being untrustworthy[2] in socially and culturally significant ways, which revolved around contemporary understandings of marriage and the abuse of power.  

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The Eminent Lesbian or the Passionate Spinster? Posthumous Representations of Amelia Edwards’ Love for Women

Travel writer Amelia Ann Blanford Edwards (1831-1892) loved women. This article examines how various generations of writers have represented her same-sex desire, which material and conjectures underpinned their representations, and how we might approach reading and writing about the desires of Victorian-era women-loving women today.

Bianca Walther is a freelance historian and conference interpreter based in Berlin. She produces the podcast Frauen von damals and hopes one day to finish her dissertation on women-loving women in Germany and Sweden around 1900. She is also interested in historical women travellers and has edited the Indian travel diary of German feminist Anna Pappritz. While simultaneously working on a podcast on Amelia Edwards and studying anti-lesbian rhetoric in early 20th-century literature, she stumbled across an obscure reference to an English tribad who married a pastor’s wife. This blog post is the result.
Helen Ferguson is a freelance conference interpreter and translator based in Berlin, specialised in art/architecture, film, and cultural history.

Amelia Edwards was a talented writer, passionate traveller, and self-taught Egyptologist. She was a successful novelist by the time she was in her mid-twenties, but it was a trip to the Dolomites and a subsequent journey up the Nile that were to establish her fame as a travel writer. Her bestsellers Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys (1873) and A Thousand Miles up the Nile (1877) captivated their audience with humorous observations and evocative descriptions of landscapes. 

During her trip to Egypt, Amelia Edwards acquired a lasting fascination with Egyptology. In 1882, she therefore co-founded the Egypt Exploration Fund (today: Egypt Exploration Society) and, during the last ten years of her life, dedicated nearly all her time and energy to it. Her will stipulated that monies from her estate be used to endow the Edwards Chair of Egyptology at University College London, which still survives as the Edwards Professor of Egyptian Archaeology and Philology

Amelia Edwards and Women

While Amelia Edwards’ achievements already made her a well-known public figure during her lifetime, her private life has long remained an enigma – even to her biographers Joan Rees (1998) and Brenda Moon (2006). Amelia Edwards formed emotional attachments almost uniquely with women. As an adult, she lived with Ellen Drew Braysher, a friend 27 years her senior, whose husband and daughter had died not long after Edwards had lost her parents. In early 1864, they moved to Westbury-on-Trym, where they were to live until both women died within the first months of 1892. 

Amelia Edwards in 1890, published: in Edwards, Amelia B. (1891):
Pharaohs, Fellahs and Explorers, New York:
Harper & Brothers (frontispiece).

However, Edwards always had other attachments to women too. Her papers, archived at Somerville College, Oxford, contain a number of letters from painter and world traveller Marianne North (1830-1890), whom she had befriended in 1870. While Edwards’ letters have not survived, Norths’ replies reveal that Edwards had developed quite a crush on her new friend. North, who did not reciprocate these feelings but was obviously relaxed about them, set her boundaries in a gentle and light-spirited tone: “Bless you, what love letters you do write”, she wrote one Friday in May 1871, “what a pity you waste them on a woman!” (SCO ABE 228). A few days later, after Edwards had come up with the suggestion (or should it be ‘proposal’?) of giving North a ring to wear on her next journey, Marianne North writes:

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The Conservative Roots of Reproductive Rights

Roman Birke is a Research and Teaching Associate in Contemporary History at Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena. His research focuses on the history of human rights, reproductive policies, and gender. In 2020, he published ‘Geburtenkontrolle als Menschenrecht. Die globale Diskussion über Überbevölkerung seit den 1940ern‘ (Wallstein). The book investigates the linkage between overpopulation discourse and human rights since the 1940s. It argues that in the 1950s and 1960s, claims that ‘overpopulation’ threatened to endanger human rights proved to be a key factor in the success of population control programs in the global south. 

In the 1960s, traditional norms about sexuality were challenged by what became known as the ‘sexual revolution’. In 1968, the United Nations adopted a resolution which, for the first time in the UN’s history, declared the use of contraceptives to be a human right. But, as this contribution argues, the new human right to contraception was not part of a discourse of sexual freedom but reinforced traditional family norms. 

‘Sexual revolution’

Historiographical accounts have convincingly questioned the term ‘sexual revolution’ as the transformation of sexual norms was less an event but rather a process. But, without a doubt, studies on sexuality in the 1950s and 1960s changed the public debates about sexual practices long considered taboo, including extra-marital sex and homosexuality. At the same time, feminist activists campaigned for the acknowledgment of female sexual desires and demanded a separation of sex and reproduction. At least in the ‘Western’ world, the development of new contraceptive technologies like the ‘pill’ and the IUD (Intrauterine device) have been key for advancing this agenda, despite the uneven access to contraceptives and women’s critique of bearing the sole responsibility for contraceptive choices and risks.

Contraception as a Human Right

During the contentious debates about sexual norms in the 1960s, the United Nations claimed that the use of contraceptives was a human right and urged governments to provide couples with the ‘means necessary to enable them to exercise their right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children’.[1] Many contemporary contributions like the Oxford Handbook of Reproductive Ethics claim that these UN documents were the cornerstone of what we understand as reproductive and sexual rights today which include the right to decide whether or not to have children, the right to sexual and reproductive health and being able to have a ‘satisfying and safe sex life’, independent of sexual preferences.[2] But, surprisingly, the UN-resolutions of the 1960s were not part of a discourse of sexual freedom. Rather, they understood contraception as a potential remedy to the anxieties of global overpopulation and emphasized traditional family norms.

The couple as rights-holder

Contrary to many human rights documents at the time, the resolutions declared the couple instead of the individual to be the bearer of a right to contraception. But, who, within the couple, had the power to decide on whether or not to use contraception? Many domestic legal and constitutional norms in the 1960s and beyond declared men to be the head of the family which made the individual exercise of rights dependent on the gendered power imbalances within the couple. This was not only a matter of legal theory. When, in 1984, a large number of activists gathered for the International Women’s Health Conference, speakers emphasized that many women in their respective countries cannot make contraceptive choices without the agreement of their male spouses. 

Protecting the family

The UN’s view on reproductive rights was strongly linked to how human rights documents conceptualized the family. The 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 16) and the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 23) both defined the family as ‘the natural and fundamental group unit of society’ and argued that it was ‘entitled to protection by society and the State.’ Many UN member countries emphasized that contraception should not question traditional roles of men and women within the family. In a series of meetings of the UN’s Third Committee in 1966 and 1967, the French and Iranian delegates argued that questioning these roles would introduce ‘elements of conflict into the marriage’ and threaten the ‘unity and harmony of the family’. The British delegate reasoned that equal opportunities should not be ‘divorced from a woman’s primary duty to her family’. Only the US-delegate argued that the responsibilities for family affairs including family planning ‘should be shared by both spouses’ and that calls to protect the harmony of the family were just ‘pretext for discriminatory practices against women’.[3]

Despite such a critique, traditional family norms remained at the forefront of global UN-programs that distributed contraceptives to men and women. While many organizations and activists involved in these efforts privately believed in the emancipatory potential of contraception, they focused on providing only married couples with contraceptives and emphasized traditional gender roles. Instead of showcasing alternative roles beyond traditional family norms, advertisements for contraception like the 1968 Disney film ‘Family Planning’ argued that using contraceptives to reduce the number of children would allow women to be more efficient in carrying out their domestic duties.  


Despite their focus on maintaining traditional family norms, early reproductive rights declarations already contained an acknowledgement of individual desires to limit the number of children. Paradoxically, this position was not per se related to the discourses of the ‘sexual revolution’. Also, it was not primarily concerned with envisioning new roles for women beyond motherhood and duties to the family. Rather, limiting the number of children was part of a wider discourse of overpopulation and attempts to reduce population growth in the global south. But despite the original intentions, the human right to contraception became a slogan that was reappropriated by the women’s movement and activist-minded international lawyers who intended to change global gender relations. Already in 1975, the UN Mexico City Women’s conference formulated a strong rebuke to previous UN resolutions on contraception. Instead of declaring contraception a couple’s right, their resolution claimed that all individuals had such a right. They also emphasized that individuals did not only have a right to limit the number of their children. They also claimed a right of not having children at all. 

While UN human rights doctrine started to understand women’s rights as independent of their roles within the family, many contemporary debates about contraception and the family are reminiscent of the conservative origins of reproductive rights in the 1960s. Based on what Ivan Krastev described as ‘demographic anxiety’, many authoritarian governments envision a national awakening by the means of an increased birth rate of heterosexual couples, turning back decades of developments in the legal understanding of reproductive rights.[4]

Cite this article: Roman Birke, „The Conservative Roots of Reproductive Rights“, in: History | Sexuality | Law, 19/01/2021, https://hsl.hypotheses.org/1580, (abgerufen am: Datum).

[1] United Nations: Declaration on Social Progress and Development, Proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 2542 (XXIV) of 11 December 1969.
[2] Leslie Francis, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Reproductive Ethics (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017).
[3] United Nations Official Records: Minutes of the Third Committee in 1966 and 1967 (Meetings 1444, 1445, 1469, 1475).
[4] Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes, ‘Populisms in Eastern Europe: A Demographic Anxiety’, Le Débat No 204, no. 2 (2019): 161–69.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) in Times of COVID-19

Annika Orich is Assistant Professor of German at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research centers on the intersection between science and art, debates on multiculturalism and migration, discourses on memory and identity, and questions about humor. Her book project on reproductive imaginations shows how reproductive processes in biology and the arts evoke similar anxieties in the German cultural realm. She has published on Germans’ changing attitudes toward their Nazi past and the function of comedy by immigrants in German identity debates, and her article “Archival Resistance: Reading the New Right” is forthcoming (German Politics and Society).

At the end of April 2020, the BioTexCom Center for Human Reproduction posted a four-minute video about babies in the Ukrainian companies’ care who were born via surrogacy and currently unable to be with their parents due to COVID-19 travel restrictions on its YouTube channel.[1] Sitting in a conference room while reading a prepared statement from a MacBook in his lap, BioTexCom’s lawyer addressed clients around the world who had abruptly been prevented from coming to Kiev to meet and pick up their children. Two seconds into the lawyer’s statement, the camera cuts to and pans across neatly arranged rows of swaddled newborns in hospital baby cots.[2]

The crying of these babies—which is used to drown out the voice of BioTexCom’s lawyer—ultimately alert viewers of the extent to which laws not only regulate the unification of families in times of COVID-19, but also facilitate the very existence of these children. In the Ukraine, commercial surrogacy for infertile heterosexual married couples is legal. In Germany, the Embryo Protection Act bans any form of surrogacy.

BioTexCom produced this video to assure parents of the well-being of their children, and to urge them to obtain travel exemptions. Yet the images of rows of babies waiting to meet their intended mothers and fathers for the first time caused a national and international debate on the ethics of surrogate motherhood and the (non-)regulation of the assisted reproductive technology (ART) market.[3]

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‘I ought not be married as a coloured person’: Rassenmischehen and Categories of Difference in 1920s Southwest Africa

Lisa M. Todd is Associate Professor of History at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada. She holds a PhD from the University of Toronto, an MA from Royal Holloway College, University of London, and a BA from the University of New Brunswick.  Todd’s first monograph, Sexual Treason in Germany during the First World War, appeared in 2017 with Palgrave-Macmillan. Her current project, “Racial Citizenship: Miscegenation, Scientific Authority, and the Creation of Intimate ‘Others’ in Modern Germany, 1880-1950,” examines the anthropological interest in “mixed race” sexual relationships, from the German colonial period, to the end of the Third Reich. 

Background: Post-Genocidal Mixed Marriage Regulations

In 1905, amidst the genocidal violence that accompanied the German-Herero and German-Nama Wars, colonial administrators in German Southwest Africa (SWA, present-day Namibia) introduced a ban on ‘civil marriages between whites and ‘natives.’ Two years later they nullified all so-called mixed marriages that had taken place before 1905. In 1908, a German Imperial Ordinance was published conferring on governors the power to make laws concerning the marriage of Indigenous peoples in Protectorates. In May 1912 the German Reichstag passed a controversial resolution ‘to ensure the validity of marriages between whites and natives in all German colonies’ and to determine the rights of illegitimate children, and in April 1914, the Governor of German Southwest Africa issued a decree allowing for the registration of marriages between Europeans and ‘natives’. The inconsistency of these legal decisions, over the course of only nine years, resulted in trauma to the families involved, but also an uneven implementation of the processes of sexual and racial segregation that accompanied the German occupation of Namibia.[1]

A lively historiography has developed around early twentieth century Rassenmischehen in the colonial sphere, as scholars seek to evaluate how the racialization of space compounded hierarchies of power in settler societies. Sexual ‘race-mixing,’ or miscegenation, presented obstacles to these power structures. White settlers increasingly saw biracial persons as cases in urgent need of categorization: would these people, with the ‘white blood in their veins’ be useful in future European domination, or did their ‘black blood’ mark them as future threats to white supremacy in occupied lands?  Uncertainty about the intersections of race, sexuality, and the law continued past German occupation, and were further complicated when South African authorities introduced their own anti-miscegenation legislation after 1919. The following example illustrates this point.

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