Dutch parliament wants to abolish reflection time for abortion


Western Europe


Chris Stoffer from the Reformed SGP. In the background, proponents of the bill. Photo ANP, Lex van Lieshout

A majority in the Dutch parliament wants to abolish the mandatory period of reflection for abortion. While liberal parties think this wait time is patronising, confessional parties fear that this abolishment would harm both mother and child.

"A special day." That is how Wieke Paulusma from the governing social-liberal D66 party viewed Thursday when the Dutch parliament debated the mandatory reflection time for abortion. Paulusma wants to abolish it, and the governing liberal VVD party supports her. The Christian democratic CDA and the Christian ChristenUnie (ChristianUnion) party are also in the coalition but do not support the abolishment.

The deletion of this regulation is a private member’s bill from both the liberal parties D66 and VVD, who see the mandatory reflection time as paternalistic for autonomous women. Opponents, however, gave examples of other days of reflection in the law, like for buying a house. In many European countries, there is a mandatory reflection time around abortion.


D66 and VVD need support from, among others, the Greens and the social-democratic PvdA. They all want a 'flexible time of reflection', instead of the mandatory wait time. With this, the mother and the health professionals can make a decision together on how long the mother should decide about the abortion. According to them, the current mandatory wait time is unnecessary and, above all, condescending and derogatory.

Paulusma's political opponent, Chris Stoffer from the Reformed SGP party, had a totally different view of the day. According to him, it was a "black" day. The conservative party is opposed to abortion because they want to protect the unborn life.

According to ChristenUnie MP Mirjam Bikker, the mandatory waiting time is most important for vulnerable women. Bikker pointed at the mental problems women forced to abort their pregnancy face.


It was not all disagreement, however. A more widely shared concern is how doctors will be able to estimate which woman needs a short waiting period and who a long one. The Christian democrat Hilde Palland fears that the 'flexible waiting time' will lose its meaning since a mother can get an abortion regardless. "How can we guarantee carefulness? "

The liberal VVD thinks doctors should be extra careful when "girls from other cultures" request an abortion. According to the liberals, there could be more coercion there.


Although the initiators of the debate tried to ensure that their proposal could count on massive support in the healthcare sector using references to reports and studies, this turned out to be more nuanced. For example, the regional broadcaster RTV Oost reported during the debate that several abortion clinics oppose the abolition of the mandatory reflection time. "There are many empowered women who come to the clinic and think they know exactly what they want. And then they regret their decision because they acted too quickly", says a board member of a clinic to the broadcaster.


The discussion about the waiting period has been going on since the eighties. In 1984, abortion was legalised in the Netherlands. However, opponents managed to enter a mandatory wait time into the legislation. This was a compromise between the VVD and the CDA, back then, an opponent from abortion.

The debate on the bill will continue next week. Healthcare Minister Ernst Kuipers will also give his opinion as an advisor to the House of Representatives. Voting is expected to happen in the week after that.

Reflection time for abortion across Europe

  • Belgium: 6 days reflection period
  • Bulgaria: no reflection period
  • Germany: 3 days
  • Cyprus: none
  • Denmark: none
  • Estonia: none
  • Finland: none
  • France: none
  • Greece: none
  • Hungary: 3 days
  • Ireland: 3 days
  • Italy: 7 days
  • Croatia: none
  • Latvia: 3 days
  • Lithuania: none
  • Luxembourg: 3 days
  • Malta: abortion ban
  • Austria: none
  • Poland: 3 days
  • Romania: none
  • Slovakia: 2 days
  • Slovenia: none
  • Spain: 3 days
  • Czech Republic: none
  • Sweden: none