1. Is abortion legal in Belgium?
See the law of 3 April 1990 making abortion legal in Belgium.
2. How much does an abortion cost?
In 2002, the abortion centres that are members of the LUNA not-for-profit network entered into a special agreement with the RIZIV. According to this agreement, the lion's share of the price of abortion services is paid for directly by your mutual health insurance fund. Provided you are a member of a mutual health insurance fund, you will only have to pay a minimum contribution of a few euros out of your own money.
3. I am underage. Do I need the consent of my parents?
No. The law stipulates that it is up to the pregnant woman to reach her own decision, no matter what age she is. The physicians working for abortion centres are authorised to carry out an abortion at the request of an underage woman. The legislator has assumed that underage women can reach their own decision in such cases, provided the physician also believes that the underage woman is in a position to make a decision.
(Note: If the intervention is carried out in a hospital under a general anaesthetic, then your parents must indeed be informed. This is standard medical procedure with respect to the use of general anaesthetics.)
Both the doctor and all of the staff concerned are bound by professional secrecy. They must not inform your parents of your desire to have an abortion or indeed of the abortion itself. However, if the doctor believes you to be in a situation that is of concern for your welfare or health, then they may encourage you to involve your parents or to seek help from elsewhere.
4. Can I have an abortion straight away the first time I come for an appointment at the abortion centre?
The law stipulates that an abortion cannot be carried out any sooner than six days after the initial appointment at the abortion centre.
5. Does anyone else have to know I have terminated my pregnancy?
All staff at the abortion centre are bound by professional secrecy. Only the people you yourself choose to tell will find out that you have had an abortion. Thanks to the agreement reached by the abortion centres and the National Service for Sickness and Disability Insurance (RIZIV), your mutual health insurance fund will cover the majority of the costs of your termination via direct payment to the abortion centre. You will pay only a small minimum contribution. Both the RIZIV and the health insurance funds take your anonymity very seriously. Even if you are still registered as a minor on your parents' health insurance policy your anonymity will still be guaranteed by your mutual health insurance fund. Of course you can also opt to pay all of the costs yourself with no intervention by your health insurance fund.
6. Can I terminate my pregnancy without my partner's agreement?
Yes. In legal terms this is referred to as "the right to physical integrity". This right to physical integrity is guaranteed for each individual and is not affected by marriage or cohabitation. The law stipulates that the pregnant woman may decide independently whether to continue or terminate her pregnancy.
7. Can my general physician or my gynaecologist carry out the abortion?
If your GP or your gynaecologist works in a healthcare institute which has its own in-house advisory service for pregnancy termination (cf the Law of 1990), then yes. Otherwise, no.
8. Do I need a referral from a doctor or gynaecologist?
No, that is not necessary. Anyone can get in touch directly with an abortion centre. In practice it is true that often women do make an appointment with an abortion centre after a referral from their own doctor or gynaecologist.
9. Up until how late can I have an abortion and what can I do if I have passed that deadline?
In Belgium, the law permits termination of pregnancy up to 12 weeks after conception, which corresponds to 14 weeks if you are counting from the first day of your last period (= first-trimester treatment).
This 14-week deadline can be exceeded if the life of the woman is endangered by the pregnancy or birth or if the child is certain to be born with severe abnormalities. A second medical opinion is required in such cases.
If the above conditions do not apply, Belgium does not allow termination of pregnancy during the second trimester (= later than 12 weeks after conception). However, this is permitted in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
10. How large will the foetus be?
The size of the foetus will depend on the length of the pregnancy. Very early on in a pregnancy - up to a maximum of 7 weeks - the ultrasound will only show the contours of the amniotic sac. In some cases a very small pre-embryo may be visible. Embryonic development is an ongoing process. At 14 weeks, the ultrasound will show an embryo that is 82 mm long.
Seeing the ultrasound images can be distressing for the patient. The physician will be discreet when consulting the ultrasound.