THE BELGIAN ABORTION LEGISLATION

CONDITIONS

Abortion is still included in the Belgian penal code. However, thanks to the law of 1990 it is no longer considered a criminal act provided certain conditions are met.

Firstly, both the initial consultation with the counseling as well as the treatment itself must take place in a “healthcare institute”. This can be either an abortion clinic or a hospital that offers pregnancy terminations. These institutes must also have a contraception education program service on-hand.

The law also states that a woman is allowed to let her pregnancy be terminated if she finds herself in a situation of emergency due to her pregnancy. The law does not provide a definition of this emergency condition, but does stipulate unequivocally that the final decision is in the hands of the woman herself. She alone can assess her own situation and how it should be coped with effectively. This also counts for underage girls who can decide independently as to whether they wish to complete their pregnancy; parents and guardians do not have to be informed.

During the consult at your first appointment, your specific situation will be discussed. All the questions you want answered, will be addressed. Some issues are invariably discussed in every consult, such as your applied method of birth control and possible reasons why they weren’t effective, which type of contraceptives might be most suitable for you in the future; what methods are available to terminate a pregnancy and which method woud you prefer.

On the day of the abortion you will have to confirm your request for a pregnancy termination in writing.

Between your initial appointment and your actual termination – it is required that both take place in the same facility – a compulsory waiting period of six days has to be taken into account. This means that your first appointment must take place prior to the end of the 11th week of your pregnancy (or prior to the end of the 13th week if you are counting from the first day of your last period).

In Belgium, an abortion after the 12th week of pregnancy (or prior to the end of the 14th week if you are counting from the first day of your last period) can only be carried out under the following circumstances: if the continuation of the pregnancy implies a serious risk to the life of the mother, or if examinations have shown that the child is suffering from an incurable disease (on the basis of current scientific knowledge). In such cases, the intervention must be carried out in a hospital and a second medical opinion must be sought.

At this moment in time, the only option available to women who wish to undergo an abortion after the 12th week of their pregnancy (or after to the end of the 14th week if you are counting from the first day of your last period) and to whom the above conditions do not apply is to seek assistance abroad (for instance in the Netherlands or the United Kingdom). If you find yourself in this situation you can go to a Belgian abortion centre for counseling and/ or for more information, where you can also obtain a referral abroad.