Court overturns denial for license

Women on Waves is very pleased with the Court decision on June 4 to overturn the denial of the licence to operate a first trimester abortion clinic by the Dutch Minister of Health in July 2002.

Women on Waves is now preparing the next sailing, but until the Minister of Health has actually granted the licence for a first trimester clinic on board the ship, Women on Waves will be restricted to the provision of the abortion pill for early pregnancies. In the Netherlands no license is needed for abortions (till 45 days). As the courts decision clearly indicates, Women on Waves should be able to also help women with unwanted pregnancies until 12 weeks on board the ship and the organisation hopes the Minister of Health will now grant the license very soon.

The denial of the licence for a first trimester abortion clinic by the Dutch Minister of Health was based on the claim that Women on Waves could not meet the legal requirement for a contract with a nearby hospital while operating abroad. This was a purely legal argument. Women on Waves does in fact have a contract, which regulates diagnostic and therapeutic consultation, with a hospital in Amsterdam.

The court has decided that the contract Women on Waves signed with the Dutch hospital fulfils the legal requirements and overthrew the objections of the Minister of Health.
The contract with the hospital does not legally require the possibility to provide emergency aid in case of complications because according to medical/ ethical standards and other regulations all hospitals (also outside the Netherlands) are required to provide emergency aid in this case. Advancements in communication have made therapeutic and diagnostic consultation as required by the law, also possible when a hospital is not nearby. Furthermore any complication, which is very rare, can be treated in the treatment room on board the ship. The distance to the contracted hospital is therefore irrelevant. The judges decision supports this conclusion
During the court case the representative of the Dutch Minister of Health confirmed that the abortion services Women on Waves provides are of high quality and very safe. A medical expertise report, signed by more than 100 doctors, gynaecologists, other experts and two marine doctors and submitted to the commission, has fully endorsed this conclusion.

The court also decided that the Dutch Minister of Health did not have any valid legal arguments to deny Women on Waves a licence to operate the mobile clinic in the Netherlands.