Ms. Schmidt, you sat in the Bundestag for more than thirty years. Do women find it particularly difficult in politics, or is it simply a demanding job in general?
Even if we have already achieved a lot, we are still a long way from equal participation. And it is becoming increasingly clear that many things in politics are anti-family. The Bundestag is in Berlin, the constituency is further away and maybe very large. There are many evening events, not only during the weeks of the sessions. In practical terms, this means that either one of the partners forgoes their career and takes on the family work, or one needs the support of others.
MPs cannot take parental leave.
No, they are not entitled to it. You can decide that you want to be there for your child more. Nobody tells them anything. But then they have to figure out how to deal with it. Basically, full attendance is always required. It’s the same for men and it’s the same for women. For many, the first phase of the pandemic, with the numerous digital conferences, was a much better opportunity to reconcile politics and family. There was a lot of understanding, even if a child sat on the lap.
Members of the Bundestag also have better financial opportunities to seek help with care.
Of course MPs are privileged, they don’t face the problem of not earning enough like other families. At the same time, the problem has worsened because many more young people are entering politics today.
What do you mean?
Today, many young people are already on the list while they are having children or completing their studies. And they get elected too. That wouldn’t have existed thirty years ago without long careers in the parties. They’re still green behind the ears, one would probably have said in the past. (Laughs.) When I was elected to the Bundestag 31 years ago, my daughter was 19 and already out of the childcare phase.
Right from the start of your time in the Bundestag, you campaigned for women’s issues. In 1992 you helped get the deadline solution for abortions off the ground.
For women, making angels – illegal abortions – was a big topic at the time. Younger people probably don’t even know the term “angel maker” anymore, but at the time all women knew what it was. Many of them became seriously ill after such procedures. Even then, I was of the opinion that criminalization would not prevent abortions, but that help should be offered instead.
The first time limit solution was then overturned by the constitutional court. The judges complained that abortion would generally be declared legal in the first fourteen weeks. In the new version, impunity was then linked to mandatory consultation.
Leave a Reply