In the Netherlands, delayed abortion, i.e. beyond 24 weeks and in the case of foetal anomalies as well as the euthanasia of disabled newborn babies, have been decriminalised by the “Directive for the non-prosecution of euthanasia cases without a request and late abortions” of 2007.
Every year, the Commission controlling late abortions and the euthanasia of newborn infants publishes a report on the status of these practices in the country. According to this report, since 2007, there have been “17 official reports of late abortions and only one report of euthanasia of a newborn infant”. However, the number of cases reported does not reflect the number of real cases, which is higher.
In 2015, the Commission noted that “no cases of late abortions” were reported. At the same time, several pregnant women appear to have been directed to Belgium for late abortions.
This redirection to Belgium is under scrutiny. Suzy van Leeuwen, Secretary of the Commission, explained: “We have received information indicating that requests for late abortions are being directed from the Netherlands to Belgium”. She added that: “There are no exact figures to confirm how often this happens. The fact that it does happen is inevitably linked to the long and complex reporting procedure implemented by the Commission. Doctors are also reluctant because the Public Prosecutor’s Office issues a judgement on full compliance with the precautionary standards in force for the euthanasia of new-born infants and late category 2 abortions. These legal criteria are unclear as far as doctors are concerned”.
Belgium says little about these late abortion cases because, although it is a legal requirement, the Belgian Abortion Evaluation Commission has not published a report since 2012.
Medisch Contact; Institut Européen de Bioéthique, 18/11/2016.