Request to Dutch Minister to guarantee Access to Abortion Care via telemedicine during the COVID-19 Measures

Press release 3/2/2020:

In the Netherlands the Corona Crisis is causing obstacles to access to abortion services.  

Two women in isolation owing to COVID-19 mitigation measures are unable to leave home and attend an abortion clinic. 

However, attending a clinic is currently a legal requirement in order to terminate a pregnancy using the abortion pill. Bureau Clara Wichmann and Women on Waves address this shortfall in a letter to the Minister. They believe that during the COVID-19 measures the abortion pill for early terminations should also be available outside of abortion clinics via general practitioners and telemedicine. The letter requests that the Minister propose a solution swiftly so that all women who are unable to travel to a clinic today can take the abortion pill at home. In England, a country with similar requirements regarding abortion as The Netherlands, abortion aid is now being designed to accommodate this form of care. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) has created guidelines for abortion relief during the COVID-19 pandemic that focus on the safety and potential of use of telemedcine.

Doctor and Director of Women on Waves, Rebecca Gomperts, wants to be able to send the medicines to her patients after a telephone consultation. If she were to provide this kind of assistance now, she could be be prosecuted. For this reason, together with Bureau Clara Wichmann, Dr Gomperts asks the Minister thatmedicines could temporarily be sent to patients at home. This assistance could also be provided by general practitioners, since guidelines from NHG already exist offering general practitioners the opportunity to provide this care. In addition, general practitioners supervise miscarriages.

Rebecca Gomperts: “Terminating a pregnancy is an urgent and time-sensitive problem. It is currently unclear how long the restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the virus are needed. Everyone has been called to stay at home, but women with an unwanted pregnancy must now run unnecessary health risks to go to an abortion clinic. ” 

Both women involved cannot leave home at this time. One of the women has a daughter with symptoms of illness so she is advised not to go outside. The other woman is in a home situation with a partner who does not want to let her out during this time. Both women want to terminate their pregnancy within the first trimester with the abortion pill.

The use of medicines for an abortion via telemedicine has been scientifically proven to be safe and effective. The drugs are also on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines for Termination of Pregnancy in the First Trimester.

Clara Wichmann and Women on Waves  are assisted by lawyer Lisa-Marie Komp: “The simultaneous application of the COVID-19 measures and the prohibition of treatment to terminate a pregnancy outside an abortion clinic leaves women deprived of the medical care to which they are entitled. In addition, attending physicians risk criminal charges if they do help their patients. This is contrary to the right of self-determination of the women concerned. "

The organisations will take the case to the courts if the minister does not take the necessary measures to guarantee access to home medication abortion within 24 hours.

In addition, written parliamentary questions have also been asked by Liliane Ploumen of the PvdA.