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Campaigners back extending abortion limit from 12 to 18 weeks
Anti-sexism organisation Rosa took to the street in front of N-VA’s Brussels’ office this week to protest the party’s stand on a potential change to the abortion law in Belgium. A similar protest was staged in Antwerp. The difference of opinion on the abortion amendment has delayed talks to form a federal government.
A federal government has yet to form following the elections of May 2019. The latest sticking point in negotiations is the proposal to extend the period in which a woman can receive an abortion from 12 to 18 weeks. The law would also reduce the waiting period – the number of days between requesting the abortion and receiving it – from six to two days.
While 12 weeks is in line with many other European countries, it is still at the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to abortion on demand with no restrictions. A change to 18 weeks would bring Belgium in line with Sweden, but still land it far off from the Netherlands and the UK, where it is 24 weeks. A study published last year in the BMJ showed that, regardless of local laws, 90% of abortions in Europe are carried out in the first 13 weeks.
A majority of the parties are in favour of the change to the law, while Flemish parties CD&V, N-VA and Vlaams-Belang are against it. N-VA is the largest party in the country and is therefore crucial to negotiations to form a federal government.
Abortion has been legal in Belgium only since 1990. CD&V, then CVP, was also against legalising abortion at the time.
Formation talks, however, have been saved by the move, announced yesterday, to delay the abortion vote until after the summer recess. The delay was the result of N-VA and Vlaams-Belang submitting an official request to the Council of State to issue advice about an amendment to the law. Advice from the Council has already been requested three times, but the move assured that a vote could not take place until the autumn and formation talks could continue.
Photo ©Ophelie Delarouzee/BELGA