Why abortion is back in the Dutch election campaign


Western Europe


Corinne Ellemeet (GroenLinks-PvdA) is one of the most outspoken proponents of a more liberal abortion law. Photo ANP, Remko de Waal

Dutch Greens and Socialists want to decriminalise abortion in the Netherlands. The Calvinist politician Chris Stoffer attends a vigil at an abortion clinic. The terminations of pregnancy are an actual topic in the political campaigns leading up to the national election of November 22.

Abortion has been legal in the Netherlands since 1984. That year, the abortion law allowed women to terminate their pregnancy until the 24th week of gestation, making the Netherlands one of the most liberal countries in Europe when it comes to abortion.

For decades, abortion was handled sensitively. All politicians knew that the legislation was a painful compromise, that was almost never challenged or debated. In election campaigns, it was seldomly mentioned.

For a long time, nothing changed in the law. Until recently. Since last January, there is no five day’s mandatory reflection period anymore for women who request an abortion. That means that they are able to terminate their pregnancy on the day they visit the abortion clinic for their first consultation.

Criminal code

But in the present election campaign abortion is a dominant topic again.

Last Wednesday, some politicians announced that they would like to see a further liberalisation of the abortion law. Currently, the termination of pregnancies is still included in the criminal code. However, Green politician Corinne Ellemeet (GroenLinks-PvdA) believes that abortion is care and no crime, the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad writes. By including it in the criminal code, you criminalise the abortion doctor and the one who receives the abortion, Ellemeet explained.

The Dutch criminal code specifies that anyone performing an abortion is punishable by law unless the abortion takes place in a special clinic or in a hospital under certain circumstances. The GroenLinks-PvdA party now wants to change this and remove the specific paragraph, thereby making abortion a right instead of a criminal activity.


There are also other voices. Last Saturday, two Christian politicians, Mirjam Bikker from the Christian Union and Chris Stoffer from the Reformed SGP party, participated in the March for Life to show their pro-life stance.

Last week Thursday, Stoffer already caused upheaval by attending a vigil next to an abortion clinic, the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad writes. Even the ruling party responded to this: "We won't let us be pushed back dozens of years in time. Done with this ultra-conservative nonsense", liberal party leader Dilan Yeşilgöz tweeted. She hopes to be the successor of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.


Proponents of the liberalisation of the abortion law point to the increasing influence of conservative parties worldwide. Especially the decision of the US Supreme Court in 2022 to remove abortion as a federal right has led to much debate about the termination of pregnancies. The Dutch politician Corinne Ellemeet worries about these trends. "In many countries, such as Poland, Hungary, Italy and the United States, the right to abortion is under pressure or even forbidden."By the way, Poland is the only European country that really restricted the access to abortion. In Hungary and Italy the numbers are still very high.

Ellemeet adds that she is also concerned about developments in her own country, where "established and new parties have a rather casual attitude towards women's rights." Therefore, Ellemeet says she wants to enshrine the "right to abortion into the law."



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