Doctors in Netherlands challenge Health Minister over medical abortion pill restrictions

Doctors and abortion rights advocates are taking the Health Ministry to court for failing to provide clear guidelines about the use of medical abortion pills, according to medical journal Medisch Contact.Early abortions have always been done outside the abortion law and are not subject to the same restrictions, including the 5-day waiting period. Many women prefer to go their GP instead of to a hospital or clinic. But now the Health Minister Edith Schippers is introducing a new law that will require GPs to apply for licences to provide the pills, under which both early abortions and the doctors would be subject to the criminal law. Doctors and advocates see this as a serious deterioration of abortion rights that will lead to reduced access and later abortions.The Health Minister told Parliament she would introduce the legislation at the end of this year. Medical abortion pills are currently only available in hospitals and abortion clinics. The Health Inspectorate says doctors cannot prescribe them until the law has been changed because they would be committing a criminal offence. Doctors disagree.There are some 30,300 abortions in the Netherlands a year. Over half take place in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. The Netherlands has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world, at 8.5 per 1,000 women. Advocates want medical abortion to be available to women for very early abortions.According to Medisch Contact, the case may be heard at the end of September or in early October.SOURCE:, 7 September 2016