Monday 15 August 2022

‘Paternalistic’ compulsory pre-abortion wait will be scrapped

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

The compulsory five day pre-abortion wait will very likely be abolished as MPs debate a draft bill initiated by D66 on Thursday.

The wait currently applies to all women who are more than 16 days pregnant and want an abortion. It was included in Dutch abortion law when the practice became legal in early 1980s and has been controversial ever since.

A motion by PvdA and GroenLinks to abolish the five day ‘reflection period’ was passed in February last year despite the opposition of the three Christian parties. However, the government accord stipulated that some medical issues with ethical implications would not be tabled and there was no follow up.

The new accord, agreed on by VVD, D66, CDA and ChristenUnie, says that MPs do not have to vote with their parties but can ‘follow their conscience’ when it comes to such issues, clearing the way for a free vote.

The CDA and ChristenUnie are in favour of keeping the wait because, they say, women need to take the time to think about their decision.

D66 parliamentary leader Jan Paternotte said that women can take that time with their doctors if they so wish but that most women will have thought about it already. He called the waiting time ‘wrong, paternalistic and obsolete’. VVD, PvdA, GroenLinks and SP are expected to support the bill.

The rate of abortions compared to live pregnancies in the Netherlands is one of the lowest in the world at 8.8 per 1000 in 2018. Most procedures involved women under the age of 30 and are carried out before the seventh week of pregnancy.

MPs also voted to put contraceptives, including the birth control pill, back in the basic health insurance package as part of the February motion. This will be on next week’s parliamentary agenda and is also expected to gain majority support.

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