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Germany's Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked a new law that would have permitted abortion within the first three months of pregnancy, but said its ruling was not final.

The ruling continued an unusual split in which restrictive abortion rules prevail in western Germany and abortion-on-demand in formerly Communist eastern Germany. This made abortion one of the last unreconciled legal issues remaining from the 1990 unification of East and West Germany.

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The panel of seven men and one woman approved a request for a temporary injunction blocking implementation of the law, which was passed June 26 by the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, in a vote that split Chancellor Helmut Kohl's coalition.

Roman Catholic clerics and conservatives had fought bitterly against the new law, which would overturn the tougher West German rule and substitute language more like the liberal guidelines that had been in force in East Germany.

Before the two countries united in October 1990 they had been unable to decide which abortion practice should prevail, and they left the issue to be decided by the Bundestag before 1993. This week's decision leaves the country with two differing abortion laws, and there have been calls for a speedy resolution.

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