by Agne Cimermanaite
More than a year ago, +31mag interviewed Abortion Network Amsterdam and shared the story of a small group of volunteers offering their support to foreigners seeking abortions in the Netherlands. We asked one of the volunteers to give us an update on the accessibility of abortion in Europe.
Abortion accessible after 16 weeks
As the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union, The Netherlands is left as the only country in Europe where abortion is accessible after 16 weeks. Currently, there are eight clinics that perform second-trimester abortions in the Netherlands.
As traveling to the United Kingdom becomes more difficult, more women from across Europe will have to rely on Dutch clinics for getting abortions. “This is why it is crucial to get more specialists and open a third clinic that would perform abortions until the 22nd week in the Netherlands,” says a volunteer from Abortion Network Amsterdam. “It has always been very busy to get an appointment for second-trimester abortions, but now there is going to be an even bigger demand. When there are only a few clinics and not many specialists that can perform such abortions, we are facing a problem”.
Abortion Without Borders
Abortion Without Borders, a recently-launched campaign, is a joint effort between several organizations in different European countries. It mainly supports women from Poland, where abortion in most of the cases is illegal, to go abroad and safely terminate their pregnancies. The campaign is good news for people who do not have easy access to getting a safe abortion and need practical and financial support.
Coronavirus is affecting nearly all organisations and enterprises in the world, including Abortion Network Amsterdam. According to the volunteer, “the virus has a lot of impact on abortion pill delivery services and in some instances people cannot leave the country and if they also cannot get the pill delivered, they are completely unable to get an abortion.” Because of that, there is a high possibility that, after the quarantine ends, many women in their second trimesters will want to terminate their pregnancies.
Abortion at the time of corona (and beyond)
“We need to keep up with the news every day and, if the borders will close, coming to the Netherlands for abortion is going to be a huge problem,” the volunteer said. “Coronavirus has a huge impact on us and we are trying to manage the situation as much as we can and get updates from the clinics, whether they are still open and if we can still arrange appointments for people outside the country.”
Abortion Network Amsterdam says that most people who arrive in the Netherlands to have an abortion return to their home country immediately after the procedure. Contrary to the stereotype that abortion takes an emotional toll on the women who get them, the organization says that most who come to the Netherlands for the operation leave feeling relieved and grateful. Despite cultural assumptions that it is an emotional affair, the volunteer asserts that abortion is all just a medical procedure in the end.”
The network supports over 100 women a year by accompanying them to clinics, giving practical support, and providing information through email. As they launch this year’s campaign, more and more people requiring an abortion are being referred to the Amsterdam organisation. Though the pandemic is slowing the workflow, the volunteers are still doing everything they can to support women seeking an abortion.