Bill to fund prenatal Down's Syndrome test fails in parliament; Dutch gov't formation drags on

The VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie - the four parties currently negotiating forming a new Dutch government together - voted against permanently compensating the NIP-test for all pregnant women in the Tweede Kamer on Tuesday, NOS reports. Those four parties together make up a majority in the lower house of Dutch parliament.

The NIPT abbreviation stands for Non Invasive Prenatal Test. With just a blood test, pregnant women can find out whether their unborn child has Down's Syndrome or possibly serious abnormalities. This test can be done early in the pregnancy, giving a woman chance to decide whether or not she wants an abortion.

The two Christian parties in the formation talks are against reimbursement. The ChristenUnie fears that the test will lead to more abortions, and parents not allowing severely disabled children to be born. The CDA thinks the test should not be reimbursed for all pregnant women, only those with a higher risk of having a child with abnormalities.

VVD Health Minister Edith Schippers gave her support for full or partial reimbursement of the NIPT during Prime Minister Mark Rutte's second cabinet, but on Tuesday, her own party voted it down. The D66 also used to be in favor of compensation. It is not clear if those parties dropped their support of the bill as a concession to the Christian parties in cabinet negotiations.

In the first day the NIPT was available in the Netherlands, 800 women made appointments to have this test done, according to NOS. The proposal to continue compensating the NIPT for all pregnant women in the basic healthcare package through a subsidy regulation was made by the PvdA and SP. A trial is currently ongoing in which pregnant women pay 175 euros of the test amount, and the government pays the other 285 euros. Schippers made 26 million euros available for this trial.

On Tuesday the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, also voted on another difficult topic in the government formation talks - increasing healthcare deductibles from 385 euros to 400 euros. A large majority of the opposition parties submitted a proposal to freeze the contribution patients are expected to pay for their health care for at least one year, but the VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie voted against it. 

Both topics are officially still on the negotiating table in the formation talks. But the parties' voting behavior on Tuesday seems to suggest that some decisions have already been made.