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End of five-day legal reflection period for abortion in the Netherlands

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21 June 2022 Tags: Netherlands, reflection period, Safe abortion, She makes her safe choice, SheDecides

The compulsory five-day reflection period for abortion has come to an end. Today, the Upper House voted, by a large majority, in favour of the bill proposed by political parties D66, PvdA, GroenLinks and VVD. In February of this year, the Lower House already agreed to this bill. The mandatory period of consideration is now converted into a flexible period of consideration. Ineke van der Vlugt, programme manager Contraception and Abortion of Rutgers, is relieved: “For many people, the statutory reconsideration time-out leads to carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term unnecessarily, does not do justice to the autonomy of women and goes against the advice of the WHO.”

Patronising, rigid and unnecessarily burdensome

Research and practice show that a large majority of women who have become pregnant against their will are already certain about their decision. Ineke: “An obligation of five days of deliberation is patronising, too rigid and unnecessarily burdensome for many women. It ignores their right to self-determination. Women are perfectly capable of making a well-considered choice for abortion and of taking the time to do so that they themselves deem necessary. A doctor always checks whether the decision has been taken carefully and in a well-considered manner and can, together with the client, decide whether more time for reflection is needed or not.”

Well-considered

Before termination of pregnancy takes place, a doctor always checks with the woman whether the decision was well-considered and taken voluntarily. There is a very small percentage of women who are (strongly) in doubt about their choice. Abortion counsellors treat any doubts and ambivalence about the termination of pregnancy with care. Most women take their decision well-considered. Research shows that women who have made the choice for an abortion do not change their decision during the obligatory reflection period. Women who have taken a well-considered decision, also suffer less from regret later on.

Drug treatment at risk

A compulsory five-day reconsideration time-out may create unnecessary thresholds for certain types of treatment and good abortion care. Most women opt for termination at an early stage of their pregnancy. The choice for treatment with the abortion pill may be jeopardised if a woman presents to a doctor in the 9th week of pregnancy. Because of the obligatory five days reflection period, only instrumental treatment is then possible. This situation occurs regularly. In practice, more and more women prefer to be treated with the abortion pill.

Moreover, there are no other medical interventions or interventions in health care where a statutory five-day reflection period applies. In France, Sweden and Denmark the reconsideration time-out was abolished some time ago or never came into force. Here, too, the conclusion was drawn that a mandatory reconsideration time limit creates unnecessary barriers.

Ineke: “For the first time since the introduction of the Abortion Act in the Netherlands, 38 years ago, the law has been amended, this is a great leap forward.”

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