In 1995, the German legislature introduced the rule that a woman who terminates her pregnancy in the first trimester, which is illegal, would not be punished if she had previously undergone a legally prescribed counseling session. The counseling session, while oriented toward the protection of unborn life, is also open-ended, respectful of the decision-making right and duty of the pregnant woman. At the request of the pope, the German bishops instructed the existing counseling centers of the Catholic welfare organizations not to issue any written certificates of such counseling, as such certificates could ultimately be used to evade punishment. In order to continue to be able to offer counseling, Catholics, among them Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde, founded the association Donum Vitae (Gift of Life), which continues to issue certificates when requested. For the German bishops, the association, founded by Catholics for Catholics and non-Catholics alike, is external to the church. But what precisely is Donum Vitae? What does it stand for? Why are assessments of the association divided until this day? The essay examines these questions theologically and legally.