A new proposal from the GroenLinks and PvdA parties seeks to make the abortion pill prescribable by a huisarts (general practitioner) within the first nine weeks of pregnancy.

Accessing the abortion pill in the Netherlands

Specifically, the stated goals are to reduce barriers to access such reproductive health services for women and to do so in such a way that a woman can remain under the care of her own trusted huisarts. Currently, access to the abortion pill is limited to specialized clinics, or abortusklinieken. Importantly, it is considered illegal currently for a huisarts to provide such services or prescribe such medication.

However, this is not the first time this proposal has come up. Nearly two years ago, the same idea was proposed but then rejected by the cabinet.

Largely, health professionals remain supportive. The Nederlands Huisartsen Genootschap (Dutch GP Society) was supportive then, and remains so now, with a greater emphasis on the necessity of appropriate specialized education for huisarts who choose to provide such a service. (This was also part of the proposal in the past, but a lack of emphasis was thought to have contributed to the rejection.) The Koninklijke Nederlandsche Maatschappij tot bevordering der Geneeskunst (Royal Dutch Society for the Promotion of Medicine), which also represents several Dutch physician societies, also agreed with the proposal in the past.

In addition to health professionals, various grassroots organizations in the Netherlands are in favor of easing women’s access to reproductive health care. Recently, these groups have banded together to petition in support of legalization for an appropriately trained GP to prescribe the abortion pill and provide related services.

Women’s March Netherlands in Amsterdam, 2017. Photo by Tiffany Leung

What’s happening elsewhere?

In contrast, the U.S. state of Mississippi is on the cusp of passing legislation to further restrict access to abortion services, essentially making it illegal for a physician to provide abortion services for a woman with a pregnancy beyond 15 weeks. This would be the most restrictive in the States.

In Texas, changes in legislation had already led to closures of abortion clinics and also increased the barriers for women to access abortion services. But, there’s always a brave political naysayer when it comes to abortion controversy — and one found a great opportunity to highlight the inherent problems and consequences of Texas’s legislation on women’s rights to access reproductive health care. She drafted a bill on a “Man’s Right to Know.”

What’s next?

What do you think about the new proposal in the Netherlands? Should access to the abortion pill be made available through a huisarts?

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