New regulation on late-term abortions and termination of life in neonates

Edith Schippers, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, and Ard van der Steur, Minister of Security and Justice, have drawn up a new regulation on late-term abortions (after 24 weeks) and termination of life in neonates (up to one year). The change was prompted by an evaluation of the existing regulation, and aims to provide clarity and transparency, safeguard due medical care and accumulate knowledge. The existing regulation only goes some way towards this.

The due care criteria have been clarified and included in the new regulation. Medical and legal considerations have also been clarified. A review committee will examine each notification and issue its findings.

In late-term abortions, a distinction is drawn between a foetus who is not expected to survive outside the mother’s body (category 1) and unborn children who have such serious conditions that their chances of surviving are small, even with medical interventions (category 2).

Category 1 cases do not fall under the existing regulation, but are reported to a medical committee. Under the new regulation, the review committee will examine whether late-term abortions are carried out with due care. If it finds that a doctor acted with due care, the case will be closed and the committee’s decision will be final. If the committee finds that a doctor did not act with due care, the case will be referred to the Healthcare Inspectorate (IGZ). The IGZ will determine whether further investigation is required or measures need to be taken.

In the case of late-term abortions of the second category or of the termination of life of a neonate, the committee will also assess whether the doctor acted with due care. However, the committee’s findings will be sent to the Public Prosecution Service’s Board of Procurators General. The Board will take the committee’s findings into account in deciding whether to launch a criminal investigation and/or prosecute. The new regulation enters into force on 1 February 2016.