Wednesday 10 August 2022

Dutch ministers condemn Roe v Wade decision, say safe abortion is a right

A warning about aggressive demonstrators by a Dutch abortion clinic. Photo: Gerard Til / Hollandse Hoogte

Dutch ministers and activists have joined the condemnation of America’s supreme court judges who on Friday overturned a key decision which gave women all over the US the right to choose an abortion.

On Friday, the court abolished the constitutional right to abortion, derived from a 50-year-old legal case known as Roe v Wade. Experts say it will lead to abortion bans in about half of the states.

Foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra, a member of the Christian Democrats, said in an English language tweet that ‘today is a reminder that the struggle for the rights of women is never over’.

The Netherlands, he says, ‘stands firmly for the health and rights of all women and girls around the world to be able to decide about their own bodies and lives.’

Foreign trade minister Liesje Schreinemacher made similar comments on Twitter. ‘The Netherlands believes safe abortion is a right and is key to prevent maternal mortality,’ the minister said.

Other prominent experts and activists went public with their reactions to the news. Virologist and government health advisor Marion Koopmans described the ruling as ‘a sad day’, while Bij1 MP Sylvana Simons said that a ‘ban on abortion means a ban on safe abortion’. ‘Whoever limits it has more blood on their hands than those who opt for an abortion,’ she said.

Dutch law

Abortions can be carried out in the Netherlands up to 22 to 24 weeks, but half of all  abortions are at less than eight weeks. The Netherlands, which allowed abortion as recently as 1984, also has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world.

Meanwhile, the Dutch humanist association Humanistisch Verbond has launched a petition to have Dutch abortion law removed from the criminal statute books.

Abortion in the Netherlands, the organisation points out, is technically illegal but can be carried out in a licenced hospital or clinic.

‘The time is right to change this for good,’ the organisation says. ‘We have seen what can happen in the US if the right to abortion is not anchored in law. The law in the Netherlands is vulnerable too.’

Healthcare

The organisation argues that abortion should fall under regular healthcare, ‘so that you can go to the healthcare provider of your choice, that there are no taboos and, most of all, that the right to freedom of choice is properly enshrined and protected in Dutch law.’

Earlier this month, senators voted to scrap the five day waiting period for an abortion and senators will also debate later plans to allow family doctors to prescribe abortion pills.

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