Senate majority approves letting general practitioners prescribe abortion pills
Women in the Netherlands who want to terminate an unwanted pregnancy will soon be able to contact their general physician if they want a medication to end the early pregnancy. The Eerste Kamer, the upper house of Parliament, voted on Tuesday in favor of the bill that will give family doctors the authorization to prescribe the drugs as an alternative to a surgical abortion. The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Parliament, voted in favor of the bill several months ago.
The bill's initiators believe it is important that women be afforded more freedom of choice. Women who want access to an abortion currently have to travel to one of the sixteen abortion clinics operating in the country to have their pregnancies terminated. In some parts of the Netherlands there is no clinic within a reasonable travel distance. With an abortion prescription, a pregnancy may be terminated up to nine weeks. It concerns two medicines that must be taken within a couple of days of each other.
A large majority supported the bill, which was submitted by coalition parties D66 and VVD, and opposition parties PvdA and GroenLinks. Of the 16 parties in the Eerste Kamer, only the PVV, SGP, Christen Unie and Forum voor Democratie voted against the initiative. Together, they make up 12 of the Eerste Kamer's 75 senators. One member of the Nanninga Faction, which holds seven seats in total, also joined the bill's opponents. The OSF party's sole vote was not cast, while all other parties voted in favor of the bill.
The Tweede Kamer voted in favor of the bill in March. In a roll call vote, 106 MPs were in favor and 24 against. Opponents were from the ChristenUnie, SGP, Forum voor Democratie and most of the PVV. Only Fleur Agema from the PVV voted in support of the bill in the Tweede Kamer.
It is not yet clear when the law will take effect. That could take some time, because many matters still have to be arranged regarding its implementation, according to a spokesperson for Health Minister Ernst Kuipers. One condition that remained in the bill is that the law will be re-evaluated by politicians every seven years. That was added at the request of Tweede Kamer members.
Reporting by ANP