Belgium - Decriminalization of abortion: Parliament reopens debate



Members of the Justice Committee of the Belgian Parliament have reopened the debate on the decriminalization of abortion. Five bills were introduced, all of which go beyond the current law, as amended in October 2018. But there are differences between between the bills and their parties. Thus, there may not be a sufficient majority to decriminalize abortion.

The law reform of October 2018 legalized abortion under certain circumstances, but it did not achieve the decriminalization because criminal penalties for abortions were kept out of legal grounds. For example, the 12-week maximum remains in effect. A six-day reflection period was also retained. Only in medical emergencies, the time limit has increased. This was a compromise between the parties, but it was rejected by many as "False Decriminalization."

All new bills go beyond the current law but have important differences. Three parties have proposed total decriminalization and imposing any criminal penalties against women or health professionals, abortion is treated as a form of health care and women's right. Others are more limited, for example the abolition of sanctions against women and not against health workers.

All five bills increase the highest legal time limit of more than 18 weeks to up to 20 weeks, and reduce the required reflection period, for example, from 6 days to 48 hours. A consensus was formed to support the 18-week maximum time-frame on 23 October and was extended for medical emergencies.

In theory, such agreements could lead to a majority in favor of a new law, but others will continue to demand the complete decriminalization.