Dr. Detlef Merchel didn’t expect to wind up in court to do what he sees as part of his job: giving his patients advice concerning the medical procedures he provides. But there he was, becoming convicted for”advertising abortion” — a crime in Germany.
He received a fine of $3,000 ($3,650) last month for sharing details about the type of abortion he offers, in addition to the legal requirements for accessing it on his site.
Merchel’s conviction, and the prosecution of other doctors for the same offense, has sparked protests from Germany and revived the debate over the nation’s strategy to terminations. They’re permitted up to 12 weeks of maternity, but people looking for the procedure should attend a compulsory counselling session, which can be followed by a compulsory three-day waiting period.
Following 12 weeks, terminations are only permitted under some exceptions, such as if the pregnancy or birth poses a risk to the mother’s physical or mental health.
However, the law does not just regulate the process itself. Additionally, it restricts abortion providers from openly sharing any information regarding it. Until 2019, the legislation prohibited doctors from disclosing that they perform abortions. Now they could say that, but once they do, they are prohibited from discussing anything else.
“I can only say one sentence:’I really do termination of pregnancy if the patient follows the law,’ but I should not say anything more,” Merchel told
Another doctor who has also been convicted for getting advice on abortion on her website said she is worried about patients not being able to obtain the facts they want they need to make an educated decision.
“The specialists — the doctors — had to eliminate their information, which means that now it’s mostly just the anti-abortion websites which may be found online,” Dr. Kristina Haenel told in an email. “I need to be able to inform my patients about the different methods, their advantages and disadvantages, possible complications and dangers — as the World Health Organization urges”
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Haenel was fined $6,000 ($7,320) at 2017 and has since embarked on a trip through the German court system with the ultimate goal of getting the ban struck down.
“I don’t think the law is compatible with our constitution,” she told in an email. “Women today have in order to access factual and detailed information — I can’t withhold information from you on a topic that affects your entire body and your health.”