Questions about abortion
No. The fetus does not feel pain.
The fetus will receive the same sedation and numbing that you do during the procedure through your shared blood supplied.
There is also evidence to suggest that the fetus is not developed enough to experience pain during an abortion. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG, states that a fetus’ brain and nervous system “do not have the capacity to process, recognize or feel pain during the second trimester.” The second trimester is up until 27/28 weeks. Their position is founded on a systematic and multidisciplinary review of fetal pain perception published by the journal JAMA in 2005. No review has found contradicting evidence since then.
Anti-abortion groups argue that a fetus at 8 weeks has a spinal cord and therefore can feel the abortion. While it is true that the spinal cord has developed at 8 weeks, this does not mean the nervous system is developed enough to feel pain. In order for the fetus to be capable of experiencing pain, the neurons that extend from the spinal cord into the brain need to also reach the area of the brain where pain is perceived. This does not occur until between 23 and 24 weeks (abortion is only legal until 22 weeks in the Netherlands). But this still isn’t enough to actually produce the experience of pain. These nerves must also be functional and active. It isn’t until around 30 weeks that there is any evidence of brain activity that would suggest that the fetus is “awake” or conscious.
While fetal development can progress faster or slower in any pregnancy, there is no evidence that pain pathways could possibly be complete around the 22nd week of pregnancy, which is the latest a pregnancy (with no fetal defects) can be terminated in the Netherlands.
Abortion is a very safe medical procedure with a low risk of complications when performed by a professional.
If you have had many children through a cesarean delivery, there is a greater risk of complication. Please make sure to tell us or the clinic if this is the case, and you will be given the appropriate care.
In the days after an abortion you may experience blood loss, cramps, a mild fever or nausea. These symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication. In the Netherlands you are also prescribed antibiotics after your abortion to prevent infection. This is standard for many medical procedures.
Many anti-abortion organizations and individuals deliberately spread misinformation about abortion, in particular regarding the risks associated with it.
Terminating pregnancies does NOT have an affect on fertility. Other long-term complications are very rare.
In the Netherlands you will be prescribed antibiotics to help prevent the very small risk to your fertility and future pregnancies if you develop a womb infection that isn’t treated promptly. Again, the risk of infection after an abortion is very low, but such an infection could spread to your fallopian tubes and ovaries, and is known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). That is why it’s important to prevent it with antibiotics. A womb infection can also develop after childbirth or a miscarriage but is most commonly caused by unsafe sex (STIs).
If you have had an abortion and are experiencing any of the symptoms below please seek medical advice:
- Excessive bleeding – for example, if you pass large clots or go through two or more sanitary pads an hour for more than two hours in a row.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Severe pain that can’t be controlled with painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.
- A high temperature (fever) – around 38/38.5˚C or higher
No, you don’t have to tell your doctor. You can say you had a spontaneous miscarriage. There is no difference in symptoms and they will not be able to tell that you had an abortion. Miscarriages are very common, so even if your doctor has seen you pregnant before, they have no reason to doubt you. You will not be expected to have any medical documentation to prove it.
In England, abortion can take place up to 23 weeks and 5 days. Places in the clinic can be difficult to get, so please act with urgency.
One of the clinics is the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas). You can call them on +44 1789 416 569. They use a language line, so you should be able to communicate in your native language.
You can also click here and request a call back.
The second clinic is Marie Stopes International. Their phone number is +44 1454 457 542.
When you call the clinic, you’ll get a reference number or a customer number. They will also give you the date of the procedure.
If you need financial help to cover the cost of the procedure, or help with arranging transport, an interpreter, or accommodation, our sister organization Abortion Support Network (ASN) can help you. They will then need your full name, date of birth and telephone number, as well as the date of the procedure, which you will get from the clinic and information on which clinic the procedure will take place.
You can contact them via info[at]asn.org.uk. Their website is www.asn.org.uk.
To be able to have a medical abortion in the Netherlands, you will need to make an appointment in an abortion clinic. Different clinics have different gestational age limits, usually it is possible up to 8 or 9 weeks.
It depends on both the length of pregnancy and the respective clinic how much an abortion costs.
Up to 12 weeks: €680-€725
13-17 weeks: €850-€905
18-22 weeks: €1100
If you live in the Netherlands, you are eligible to get an abortion for free, if you have
a) BSN and health insurance, or
b) BSN and are registered with the municipality (gemeente), or
c) BSN and recent work contract, preferably with a pay slip that's dated within three months from the appointment with clinic
5* – 8 weeks
procedure: at clinic – 1 oral tablet (Mifegyne) that blocks proceeding pregnancy
2 days later – 4x vaginal tablet (Misoprostol) that causes cramping
*5 day consideration time not needed if within 45 days after last menstruation. (= up to 6 weeks + 2 days pregnant)
5 – 12 weeks
anesthesia: local (injections) or light sedation
duration procedure: 5-10 mins
total time at clinic: 5 hours
13 – 17 weeks
anesthesia: local (injections) or general sedation
duration procedure: 10-20 mins
total time at clinic: 6 hours
18 – 22 weeks
anesthesia: always general sedation
duration procedure: 15-25 mins
total time at clinic: 8-10 hours
Preparing for your appointment
First you must confirm your pregnancy and determine the length of your pregnancy with an ultrasound in your home country. The Dutch abortion law says that anyone who wants an abortion must talk to their doctor at least 5 days before the abortion. International people can use the ultrasound or doctor’s note to prove they visited a doctor before the abortion without needing a referral.
Once you have determined the length of your pregnancy you can call the clinic. If you need help making an appointment, read the question below this one and email ANA.
The clinics ANA works with most are Beahuis & Bloemenhove, Vrelinghuis Utrecht and Abortion Clinic Amsterdam. The first two perform abortions until week 22, the last one until week 18.
The receptionists speak Dutch, English, French and German. You may have to try more than one clinic to get the best date for you. The clinic will ask for some information including your full name, date of birth, height and weight, the length of your pregnancy, whether you have confirmed your pregnancy via ultrasound, and whether you are insured. They will tell you the price of the procedure, which is about 830 euros for a second-trimester abortion under 18 weeks and 1065 euros for a second-trimester abortion over 18 weeks (the exact price depends on the clinic) and give you information on what to do before your visit.
Once you have made an appointment, you need to decide on your mode of transportation and whether you will spend a night in the Netherlands or not.
If you need more help and/or have questions that are not answered on this page, send ANA an email.
Yes, if you cannot make an appointment yourself (because you don’t speak Dutch, English, French or German, or for another reason), we can help you make an appointment.
Please send us the following information at anamsterdam[at]riseup.net:
- Your full name
- Your date of birth
- Your height and weight
- A copy of an ultrasound or a doctor’s note confirming your pregnancy. You can also send us the date of the ultrasound and the following values on the ultrasound: BPD and FL.
- The first day of your last period
- Whether you have a European Health Insurance Card or can get one. If not, look at the questions “How can I get an EHIC” and “How can I get travel insurance”.
- Any allergies you have
- Any medication you take
- Whether you are otherwise healthy
- Do you already have children?
- Does anyone else know about your situation?
- Passport or identification document
- European Health Insurance Card, medical insurance card or health insurance policy document. Travel insurance is sufficient if you have no other type of insurance that is valid in the Netherlands.
- A copy of your ultrasound or a referral letter/note from your doctor. It is important that you bring something with you that shows you have been to a doctor at least five (5) days before your appointment to comply with Dutch law. If it is impossible for you to obtain such a document, tell ANA.
- Money (Euros), debit card (Maestro) or a international credit card (Visa, Eurocard/MasterCard or Amex), if you have to pay for the abortion treatment or the insertion of an IUD. The clinics do not accept cheques.
- Night-dress/T-shirt, slippers, socks, spare underwear, bathrobe, sanitary towels, and toiletries
- Medicines. If you take medicines, bring these with you on the day of the treatment
- Something to entertain you while you wait: a book, e-reader, phone or a laptop with movies. Don’t forget the accompanying chargers. The clinic has wifi.
- A card showing your blood group, if you have one
- Intrauterine device (IUD), if you want to have this inserted immediately after the treatment. You may obtain a prescription for the IUD from your GP. There is a charge for the insertion of the IUD. Please phone the clinic for the current price.
Abortion is a very safe procedure, but as with every medical procedure there is a margin of risk for complications. The clinic wants to make sure, that if there are any complications, they can handover your treatment to a local hospital, and that you will not be charged with unexpected costs. That’s why they demand that you have a proof of either European health insurance (EHIC, EKUZ in Polish) or travel insurance with medical costs coverage.
The process for getting an EHIC will be slightly different for each country. In general you can request a card online. Google EHIC + the name of your home country.
If your card won’t arrive before your appointment or you are not European, the clinics will accept travel insurance instead.
The fastest way to get this information is to Google it. Your own bank, (health) insurance company or travel agency may offer cheap travel insurance. You can choose whichever cheapest insurance will cover you. It usually costs no more than 2-4 euros per day. (this is not applicable for Poland)
In Poland you can get a travel insurance via insurance agency or travel agent. You can request it online, for the days during which you will be in the Netherlands. Cost (depending on the length) should be around 20-30 PLN. All the clinic needs is a polis number.
According to the Dutch abortion law, there must be at least five days between a visit to the doctor where the pregnancy was confirmed and an abortion. This is to give the pregnant person time to think.
Dutch people receive referral letters from their doctors. However, the abortion clinics understand that in many places getting a referral for an abortion is not possible. The clinics therefore accept anything that proves you have been to a doctor at least 5 days before your procedure, such as an ultrasound or a doctor’s note. These documents must have the date they were made printed on them.
It depends on how you are traveling. Medically there is no reason for why you should wait before or after your abortion. We have assisted many clients who drove to the Netherlands the night before their procedure, and left right after. This can be done if you travel by bus / van or have a trusted friend or family member with you who can drive you home, since you cannot drive for 24h after your abortion due to the sedation.
If you are coming by car by yourself you will need to spend the night to recover from the sedation.
If you are traveling by plane we recommend you come to the Netherlands the day before your abortion to account for delays. Chances are you won’t be able to book flights that line up with your procedure and you may have to come a day early and/or leave the day after your procedure anyway.
You (or ANA) can call the clinics any time between 9:00 and 17:00 Monday through Friday. The waiting time is usually a week, but it may be up to two weeks during busy periods.
- Flixbus to Amsterdam Sloterdijk (if abortion is planned in clinics in Amsterdam or Heemstede) or to Utrecht (for Utrecht clinic)
- Drive by van directly to the clinic. In polish they call them ‘busy’. They are local little business. They can google which one operates in their region by googling ‘busy do Hollandii’
- Plane to Amsterdam or Eindhoven
- Car (clinics in Heemstede and Utrecht offer free parking)
In the clinic
In the Netherlands abortion is legal. The abortions are performed at specialized abortion clinics and sometimes at hospitals. The clinics are professional and comply with all sanitation and sterilization standards you would expect from a quality medical institute. All doctors and nurses are qualified professionals, most with many years of experience and all instruments are thoroughly checked and sterilized before each procedure. Click here to see a Facebook video by Abortion Dream Team from Poland. The video was taken in the Abortion Clinic Amsterdam but it is representative of all clinics in the Netherlands.
The clinics employ translation phone line services, so they can help you no matter what language you speak.
When the threat of the coronavirus is over and we can accompany people to the clinic again we will offer the option of having a translator with you if you wish.
You will be asked to identify yourself at the front desk. You will receive a form to fill in, with general questions mostly regarding your health history and personal information. Note that this information will never leave the clinic and there will be no evidence that you were ever there after you leave. Some general information like your country of origin, age, length of pregnancy and reason for abortion will be used for reports that the clinics are required to make by law, but this information cannot be traced back to you.
You will then be taken for an ultrasound to determine the length of pregnancy on the day of the procedure. After that you will have a consultation with a doctor to talk about your reasons for having an abortion. There are no right or wrong answers here and the doctor will not judge you, they just need to know that you are not being forced to do this and that the abortion is your own decision. You are free to ask any question you like about the procedure or anything that’s bothering you. If necessary the doctor will call a translator phone line so that you can communicate easily.
Afterwards you will receive a brochure with more information on the procedure. A nurse will draw blood and explain what is going to happen next. Again you have the opportunity to ask questions.
After all of this is completed you will go upstairs to the ward, where the abortion procedure will take place. A nurse will show you your bed, give you a locker for your belongings and ask you to change into a hospital gown. You will be given anti-diarrhoeal medication and misoprostol, a medicine that softens the cervix and prepares it for the abortion. You will also get a catheter inserted into your arm for the sedation later.
Once your cervix has softened up enough, usually after about 2 hours (may take longer if you are >18 weeks) you are ready for the abortion. You will be taken into the operating room and sedated. You will not be fully sedated, you receive just enough so that you are not conscious but you will wake up right after the abortion is finished. The abortion itself will take anywhere from 5-20 minutes depending on the length of the pregnancy.
After the procedure, you will wake up in bed, in the room you were in before. You’ll be able to rest a little bit, and the nurses will check several times that everything is okay. After you pass your first urine, you’ll be able to go to the in-clinic kitchen/dining room and eat and drink something. You’ll get a dose of antibiotics to prevent infection.
You will receive some information on how to take care of yourself now that the abortion is over, and then you are free to go.
After your abortion
No. You cannot get into legal trouble in your home country if you had an abortion in the Netherlands, because in the Netherlands abortion is legal.
No, your doctor cannot tell if you’ve had an abortion and you don’t have to say that you had one. You can say you had a spontaneous miscarriage, there is no difference in symptoms. Miscarriages are very common, so even if your doctor has seen you pregnant before, they have no reason to doubt you. You will not be expected to have any medical documentation to prove it.
The bank details of AWB are:
You can also donate online via ASN:
Questions about ANA
We have discussed charity registration many times. However, being registered as a charity in the Netherlands (ANBI) comes with many different tasks and responsibilities that our small volunteer group simply does not have the time and capacity for right now. In the future we might reconsider this.
While our main focus is practical support, the reality is that many of the people who come to us need financial support too. A first trimester abortion in the Netherlands costs as much as €600 for someone who is not a resident; a second trimester abortion costs almost €900.
Many clients simply do not have this kind of money laying around, especially since the majority of our clients are Polish (the average monthly salary in Poland is equivalent to €830). We ask them to scrape together what they can, and borrow from friends and family, but we simply cannot turn them down just because of lack of funds: that would be cruel. So we try our best to help out financially, but it has been a struggle to make sure we always have enough money to help everyone.
Our Polish clients are usually at least partially supported through Abortion Without Borders. Abortion Support Network in the UK manages donations for AWB from mostly private donors, meaning both ANA and AWB as a whole are supported by individual people who believe in the right to choose.
ANA still needs to raise money for all of our clients because abortions, and traveling for abortions, are expensive. Before the coronavirus almost all of our money came to us through benefits that are very kindly hosted for us at different spaces in Amsterdam and Utrecht, and a few donations that we are very grateful for. We have been trying to learn how to fundraise online and our first fundraiser in June of 2020 was very successful 🙂
The vast majority of the money we spend goes directly to an abortion clinic to help a client pay for an abortion. We will also use some of the money for practical things clients need: money for public transport, accommodation (during corona we have had to book hotels and hostels much more than before) and sometimes food.
A small fraction goes to printing t-shirts, buttons, stickers and other merchandise that we sell to get more funds.