During the mid-20th century in the Netherlands, abortion involved endless hospital procedures, risky use of knitting needles, or a trip to England: these were the only options for abortin. Abortion was illegal because of a law ‘Zedelijkheidswet’ passed in 1911.
Thanks to the second feminist wave and the sexual revolution things changed. In 1971, the first Dutch abortion clinic opened its doors.
Within half a year, more clinics were appearing. The feminist group Dolle Mina made a stand with their famous demonstration “Baas in eigen buik”. Meanwhile the political discussion regarding abortion made slow progress. Even though the first bill was proposed in 1970, the law making abortion legal Wet Afbreking Zwangerschap did not come into force until 1984.
In many cases, abortion is linked to the wrong use of contraception according to the research derived from the National Abortion Registration 2015. As many as two thirds of all women became pregnant even though contraceptives were used. Most condom users reported torn condoms.
In 2015, slightly more than one in four women had not used a condom half a year before their abortion. In 2014, this concerned only one in five women.
62% of all women that choose abortion are teenage girls. Research also showed that women between 30 and 34 years of age are less likely to have an abortion; only 7.5% chooses this option.
Abortion often involves taboo, shame and guilt. However, unwanted parenthood also has huge consequences. Not everyone is able to raise a child well,. This is not even taking the psychosocial problems involved into account, for example no longer being able to participate in society, leaving school early, and the risk of ending up in a cycle of poverty.
Rutgers believes every woman should have the right to decide about her own body. In order to enable young people to make informed choices, Rutgers provides information about contraception and abortion, and dedicates itself to enabling access to safe abortion care in the Netherlands and abroad. And this is crucial as almost 50 million abortions take place yearly in developing countries, including 22 million which are unsafe.
Abortion is still prohibited in 58 countries worldwide, unless the woman is in danger of dying. In six countries, abortion is illegal under all circumstances. Rutgers also pleads for safe abortion care in countries with strict regulations. In the Netherlands, we continuously lobby for the preservation of the abortion law Wet Afbreking Zwangerschappen, which gives the right to abortion.
Strict abortion regulations do not result in lower abortion figures. Forbidding abortion does not eliminate the need. Mainly poor women are affected: they cannot afford to travel to countries where abortion is legal and good care is available. They are sentenced to local quackery with the risk of dying.
Since January 2017, Rutgers has been the lead in the She Decides movement. This international movement was initiated by former minister Lilianne Ploumen as a powerful reaction to the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy by Donald Trump, president of the United States. Because of this policy, millions of women and girls will no longer have access to contraception and safe abortion. This will result in an increased risk of unwanted pregnancies. The estimation is that 22 million women will have to rely on unsafe abortion.
Rutgers is the coordinator of the public crowdfunding of She Decides in The Netherlands. As administrator, Rutgers distributes the donations among the financially-affected organizations so they can keep carrying out their important work. Rutgers works closely together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the She Decides Support Unit which is established at the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) in London.