Abortion in the Netherlands was fully legalized on November 1, 1984, allowing abortions to be done on-demand until the twenty-first week. Cases which involve urgent medical attention can be aborted until the twenty-fourth week. There is a five-day waiting period for abortions.
Abortion was deemed illegal under the Penal Code of 1886. Convictions were all but precluded, however, by a requirement that the prosecution prove that the fetus had been alive until the abortion. The Morality Acts of 1911 closed this loophole and strictly barred all abortions except those performed to save the life of the pregnant woman.
Legalization reached the forefront of public debate in the Netherlands during the 1970s as many other Western European countries liberalized their laws. The Staten-General, however, was unable to reach a consensus between those opposing legalization, those in favor of allowing abortion and those favoring a compromise measure. A controversial abortion law was passed in 1981 with single swing vote: 76 pro and 74 against in the House of Representatives and 38 pro and 37 against in the Senate. The law left abortion a crime, unless performed at a clinic or hospital that is issued an official abortion certificate by the Dutch government, and the woman who is asking for the abortion declares she considers it to be an emergency. The law came into effect on November 1, 1984.
Currently, there are a little over 100 Dutch general hospitals certified to perform abortions, and 17 specialized abortion clinics. More than 90% of abortions take place in the specialized clinics.
In the Netherlands, abortion performed by a certified clinic or hospital is effectually allowed at any point between conception and viability, subject to a five-day waiting period. After the first trimester, the procedure becomes stricter as two doctors must consent to treatment. In practice, abortions are performed until approximately 24 weeks into pregnancy, although this limit is the topic of ongoing discussion among physicians in the Netherlands, since, due to recent medical advancements, a fetus can sometimes be considered viable prior to 24 weeks. As a result of this debate, abortions are only rarely performed after 22 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions after the first trimester must be performed in a hospital.