Issue: Health issues

This issue contains 4 sections.

Abortion

In the Netherlands, a woman who unintentionally falls pregnant may opt to terminate her pregnancy. There are abortion clinics and hospitals that are licensed to perform abortions in this country.

The procedure can be carried out up to the 24th week of pregnancy. In other words, up to the moment when the foetus is viable outside the womb. Abortions may be performed only in a licensed clinic or hospital.

Any woman who is considering having an abortion must first consult a doctor. She may visit her own GP, or a doctor at an abortion clinic or hospital.

Cooling off period

A woman whose menstruation is more than 16 days late must wait until a cooling off period has elapsed before proceeding with an abortion, in order to give her (and, if applicable, her partner) the time to arrive at a well-considered decision. Women who are fewer than 16 days late qualify for menstrual regulation, to which no cooling off period applies.

Abortion doctors are currently drawing up guidelines on the counselling of women making this decision.

Time limit for abortion

Under the law, abortion may be performed up to the time when the foetus is viable outside the mother’s body. According to the current state of science, this is 24 weeks, but in practice doctors stick to a time limit of 22 weeks. Late abortions – performed after 24 weeks – are not covered by the Termination of Pregnancy Act. Doctors are obliged to report late-term abortions and the termination of life of neonates to a central committee.

Costs of abortion

Abortions are free of charge for women who are Dutch nationals. The costs are covered under the Exceptional Medical Expenses Act. Women who live abroad or are illegally in the Netherlands must pay for the procedure themselves.

Number of unwanted pregnancies

The number of abortions performed in the Netherlands has been stable for years, and is low compared with other countries. Nevertheless, abortion is more common among certain groups of women, particularly ethnic minority women. The number of teenage pregnancies has been falling steadily since 1990.