Health minister urged to guarantee abortion pill access amid corona restrictions

Pills to bring on an early abortion. Photo: Women on Waves
Pills to bring on an early abortion. Photo: Women on Waves

Pro-abortion organisation Women on Waves and women’s support agency Bureau Clara Wichmann are urging health minister Hugo de Jonge to act swiftly to make the abortion pill available to women who are unable to make the requisite visit to an abortion clinic because of the corona crisis.

Women who want to terminate an early pregnancy are bound by law to visit an abortion clinic before they can be given the drugs. The current coronavirus restrictions are making this impossible for at least two women in the Netherlands who are self-isolating, the organisations said. Both women want to terminate their pregnancy within the first trimester using the abortion pill.

The organisations demand the pill be made available outside of the clinics, for instance via general practitioners and telemedicine, as is already the practice in England, which has a similar requirement.

Rebecca Gomperts, a doctor and director of Women on Waves, wants to be able to send the drugs to her patients after a telephone consultation but could be prosecuted if she did so. That is why a decision from the minister is urgently needed, she said.

‘Terminating a pregnancy is an urgent and time-sensitive problem. It is currently unclear how long the restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the virus are needed. Everyone has been called to stay at home, but women with an unwanted pregnancy must now run unnecessary health risks to go to an abortion clinic,’ said Gomperts.

If the minister does not comply to the request to guarantee access to the medication within 24 hours, the organisations say will take the case to court.

‘The simultaneous application of the COVID-19 measures and the prohibition of treatment to terminate a pregnancy outside an abortion clinic leaves women deprived of the medical care to which they are entitled. In addition, doctors risk criminal charges if they do help their patients. This is contrary to the right of self-determination of the women concerned,’ Lisa-Marie Komp, lawyer for the organisations, said.

MP Lilianne Ploumen (PvdA) has also requested answers from the minister about the issue.

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