When this blog post was first written a few months ago, the Senate was still debating on a bill to pass allowing GPs to prescribe the abortion pill. As of December 2022, the Senate has passed the law; however, the date of entry into force has not been decided yet and so has the date of its applicability.
This new law aims to make abortions more accessible as, for some people, the threshold for going to the GP is lower than for a visit to a clinic.
The abortion pill can be given to people with the ability to get pregnant who have an unwanted pregnancy up to a gestational age of 9 weeks. One hormone tablet is taken at the doctor's office and about two days later the patient administers the other tablets at home. The hormones will eventually cause the shedding of the amniotic sac.
Training is compulsory to allow GPs to prescribe the pill. However, they are still free to decide whether they want to offer this care to their patients. This means that they are not obliged to prescribe the pill. While preliminary research indicates that about 60 percent would prescribe the pill, both the percentage and the law do not give out any guarantee of safety as it leaves ample space for rejection.
In the meantime, four of the sixteen abortion clinics have indicated that they will have financial problems because of this competition, yet, whether that means they will have to close will only become clear once the law has effectively entered into force and the specially trained general practitioners start providing the abortion pill.
In light of the outrageous overturn by the US Supreme Court of the landmark decision in Roe vs Wade (1973), which gave women the federal right to abortion, SCDAI wishes to provide its community with an informative post on the law on abortion in the Netherlands to know your rights and where to get a safe abortion in Groningen. Following the US’ open attack on human rights, we understand that people with the ability to get pregnant might feel threatened in the Netherlands as well, especially if not familiar with the legal and healthcare system of the country. We feel an increased need to extend our empathy and support towards women and people with the ability to get pregnant in the USA. We feel angry and disappointed with the pattern of unjust legislation and patriarchal games of power against human rights, which reduce our autonomy and marginalize bodies. We feel scared of having the freedom to choose taken away from us and, for this reason, we, as SCDAI, decided to raise awareness of abortion in the Netherlands.
The Current Dutch Law on Abortion
Women and people with the ability to get pregnant can terminate their pregnancy in the Netherlands if unwanted or for medical reasons. Under the Dutch Criminal Code, the abortion may be performed until the 24th week of pregnancy, i.e. until the fetus is viable outside the mother’s body. In practice, doctors apply a two-week margin of error and stick to a time limit of 22 weeks. After the 24th week, a doctor may only terminate the pregnancy for serious medical reasons, for instance, because the fetus is not viable outside the mother’s body.
Up until now, the law imposes a mandatory five-day waiting time to think about the decision. The mandatory wait begins after the first visit to the GP or abortion clinic, to discuss an abortion. If the person decides to go through with the abortion, the doctor performing the procedure must be satisfied that their decision is voluntary and well-considered. If the menstrual period is less than 17 days overdue, the five-day waiting time does not apply. The wait currently applies to all people who are more than 16 days pregnant and want a termination. It was included in Dutch abortion law, when the practice became legal in the early 1980s, and has been controversial ever since.
To plan an abortion or receive more information, you should contact your GP or an abortion clinic. You can also get advice from a social worker.
Abortions can be performed only at a licensed clinic or hospital. Abortion clinics and hospitals can be contacted directly or via your GP.
If you need help coming to terms with the abortion, you can receive counseling. Your social worker can arrange this and your GP can also refer you to a counselor.
The Resolution on ‘Conscientious Objection’ (2006), prescribes that every person who seeks to have an abortion has the right to unbiased and objective information, care, and referral and that this right prevails over the objections of the care provider. Furthermore, the care provider shall not refuse care in case of an emergency.
Of extreme importance, remember that the father of the fetus has no legal say in your abortion.
The Upcoming Dutch Law on Abortion
The bill to scrap the five-day waiting time for people wanting an abortion before the operation can be carried out has now been ratified and will come into force by January 1st, 2023. Every person carrying an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy can plan an abortion immediately after the decision without waiting time.
A bill to allow GPs to prescribe abortion pills is currently being discussed. The Members of Parliament have voted in favour of the motion. The bill has yet to pass the Senate. The national society of abortion doctors NGvA has cautiously welcomed the plan, yet there are concerns that some family doctors might try to interfere with their patients’ wishes.
Where to Have Safe Abortions in Groningen
According to the law, abortions can be carried out in licensed facilities, hospitals, and abortion clinics, respectively the UMCG and The Martini Hospital. The Centrum voor Seksuele Gezondheid Noord (CSGNN) (https://csgnn.nl/). When the new law allowing General Practitioners (GP) to prescribe abortion pills officially enters into force, then you can also refer to them.
In the Netherlands, abortion is free of charge. The costs are covered under the Exceptional Medical Expenses Act (abortion clinic) or by your health insurer (licensed hospital). The health insurance will cover the cost of the abortion, however, if you reside in the Netherlands but do not have Dutch health insurance, bring your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). If your insurance does not cover the abortion or you do not wish to go through your insurance for some reason, the costs for the procedure can range between 400 to 1000 euros, depending on the clinic.
About the Author
Author & Editor: Francis Urciullo
Co-editor: Genesis Saragoza
Francis is SCDAI’s blog coordinator and copywriter. They are a 24-year-old queer student at the University of Groningen, who combines their BA in English Literature with an LLB in International and European Law. Their BA thesis and research focus on linking gender theories with literature. Throughout the past years, they have been engaged in advocating for international students and underrepresented minorities at the university.