Seriously ill baby

Text of the Dutch abortion act
Text of the Dutch abortion act

Sometimes a child is suffering, during pregnancy or shortly after birth, from conditions so serious that medical treatment is useless. In such a case parents can decide, in consultation with the medical practitioner, to end the pregnancy or the life of the newborn child. This is of course a very difficult decision, which has to be carried out very carefully. That is why a set of rules has been set up. Medical practitioners have to comply with these rules.

Duty of care

The decision to end a pregnancy or the life of a newborn child can only be made if the child is faced with a future of unremitting and unbearable suffering. The doctor is obliged to provide the parents with all the available information about the prognosis. Furthermore, at least one other independent medical practitioner has to be consulted. Both the doctor and the parents must be convinced that the child has no other reasonable options. If the parents agree to termination of life of the newborn child, or if the mother agrees to have an abortion, the doctor has to carry out the decision with due medical care.

No criminal prosecution

Termination of life of a newborn child or late-term abortion (after 24 weeks) are punishable offences in the Netherlands, but a medical practitioner who fulfils the requirements of due care will not be prosecuted. These requirements are listed in the Termination of Life (Neonates) and Late-Term Abortions Regulation. A commission will assess whether the doctor has acted with due care. A new version of the regulation has come into force on 1 February 2016 and was on the agenda of the postponed debate with the minister.

Annual report Termination of Pregnancy Act

Abortion up to 24 weeks falls under the Termination of Pregnancy Act. The 2014 annual report on this act shows that in 2014 a total of 30,361 abortions had been performed. 12 % of these abortions had been done on women who live abroad and who came to the Netherlands for the purpose of having an abortion. The figures for 2014 are comparable with those for 2013. However, the number of abortions performed on teenagers fell in 2014 by 13 per cent as compared to 2013. The annual report and all the figures will also be discussed during the debate.