For pregnant asylum seekers, knowing that they are expecting a child can make their life in a new country even more stressful. However, the German state and a variety of charities offer support to expectant mothers, reports Mara Bierbach.
Pregnancy is a worrisome time for any woman, but for refugee women, trying to find their footing in a new country it must be extra-stressful. Having left everything behind in their home country, many are forced to rely on state support. Thankfully, the German state offers thorough support to most pregnant women.
For the first 15 months after filing their papers, the state usually only pays for the asylum seekers’ treatments of acute illnesses and vaccinations. However, things are different for pregnant women. Germany’s Asylum-Seekers’ Benefits Act states: “Expectant mothers and women who have recently given birth are to be granted medical and nursing help and care, midwife services, medicine, bandages and remedies.”
People who have been granted asylum or subsidiary protection or who have been asylum seekers for more than 15 months receive essentially the same health care that Germans do, which covers the medical costs of a pregnancy. If someone cannot pay for their health care because they have no income and assets (or only very little), the state covers the fee.
‘Most important things are covered by the state’
“The legal situation is quite comfortable,” Stephanie Berrut told DW. She heads the Bonn chapter of pro familia, a charity that assists women in family planning. “Most important things concerning health during pregnancy and early childhood are covered by the state, such as pre-natal check-ups, the birth and vaccination shots for the baby.”
However, she says, many asylum seekers struggle to find the right support due to language barriers or because they are unfamiliar with the German medical system and bureaucratic procedures. She recommends contacting a local chapter of organizations that assist pregnant women, such as pro familia, because they can help with setting up doctor’s appointments and filing paper work. Many of these organizations provide services not just in German, but also in a myriad of other languages.
For migrants who are not registered with the state, getting access to health care can often be much more difficult. They largely have to rely on the help of charities, such as the so-called “Medibüros.” This network helps people without papers get access to free healthcare appointments. Charities for pregnant women in need also often offer free basic check-ups. At pro familia in Bonn, a gynaecologist regularly comes to the facilities to help women without access to health care.
But what if you don’t want to keep the child?
For pregnant women in Germany who do not want to keep the child, there are two options: to get an abortion or to give the baby up for adoption.
Abortions are legal in Germany within the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy. Three days ahead of the procedure, women are required to go to an advice center officially recognized by the state. Abortions are legal beyond the 12th week if carrying the pregnancy to term poses a serious risk to the physical or mental health of the woman. (With mental health, this is, for example, the case if the pregnancy is the result of a rape.) If a woman does not have sufficient funds to pay for an abortion, the state covers the costs.
If a woman wants to carry her pregnancy to term, but not keep the child, she can forfeit the rights and duties of parenthood and give her child up for adoption. Organizations that offer advice to pregnant women, such as pro familia, can also help navigate the adoption procedure or abortion regulations. (It should be noted that charities closely affiliated with the catholic church, such as the Caritas, do generally not support women seeking abortions for religious reasons, though they often provide great support for women during pregnancy.)
Organizations that help pregnant women
The federal family ministry has a hotline for pregnant women in need that you can anonymously call – it’s 0800 – 40 40 020 – and get advice in 18 languages, including Albanian, Arabic, English, French, Kurdish, Persian, and Romanian. They also have an online support chat and a search tool to find pregnancy advice centers that offer anonymous advice.
The pro familia website provides a list of locations across Germany.
Donum Vitae has a program that assists pregnant refugee women in 30 locations across Germany.
Here’s where you can search for a local chapter in your area.
The “Medibüros” help people without papers get health care. Here’s a map of their locations.