Abortion no longer in the Criminal Code

Abortion is no longer included in the Criminal Code, but is now covered under a specific law. Abortion that does not meet the legal requirements remains punishable, not according to the Criminal Code, but in accordance with the law of October 15, 2018, regarding voluntary termination of pregnancy. This law led to the repeal of articles 350 and 351 of the Criminal Code, as well as amendments to articles 352 and 383 of the same Code, in addition to modifications of several other legal provisions. These changes were published in the Belgian Official Gazette on October 29, 2018, and came into effect on November 8, 2018.

Previously, article 350 of the Criminal Code was known for criminalizing abortion, even with the woman's consent, with punishments ranging from three months to a year in prison and a fine of one hundred to five hundred euros. This was considered a violation of familial order and public morality. Women themselves were punished with a prison term of one month to a year and a fine of fifty to two hundred euros.

In 1990, an exception was introduced by the law of April 3 under certain legal conditions, where abortion was no longer punishable. However, the law of October 15, 2018, repealed articles 350 and 351 of the Criminal Code, making abortion no longer punishable under this Code. This ended the description of abortion under legal conditions as an emergency, and instead, abortion under legal conditions is considered the right of the pregnant woman.

In practice, there are likely to be few changes. Pregnancy termination remains possible up to a maximum of the twelfth week after conception. As before, the doctor must inform the woman about the medical risks of the procedure and point out various possibilities for the care of her child. The doctor must also be sure that the woman is determined to terminate her pregnancy.

The mandatory reflection period of six days after the first consultation remains in effect, unless there is an urgent medical reason to expedite the termination of the pregnancy. After the twelfth week of conception, a pregnancy can only be voluntarily terminated in two cases: in case of serious danger to the woman's health or in case of an extremely severe incurable condition in the child.

It is important to note that no medical professional can be forced to participate in a pregnancy termination. If a doctor refuses, he must inform the woman and refer her to another doctor, a pregnancy termination center, or a hospital service where she can submit a new request. The medical file is then transferred to the new doctor.

Any pregnancy termination outside this new legal framework is criminally prosecuted, without changes in the applicable penalties. Moreover, there are now also penalties for those who attempt to deny a woman access to an abortion facility, with prison sentences ranging from three months to a year and fines of one hundred to five hundred euros.



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