Dutch State Sued for Removing Birth Control from Basic Health Care

By Joanna Risvik

— This October, a lawsuit was filed against the Dutch state by Bureau Clara Wichmann and DeGoedeZaak, two Dutch organisations focused on leading social movements. They disagree with current birth control policy, in which women over the age of twenty-one have to pay the full price for contraceptives. Now they are asking for people to join their movement by signing up and becoming a co-claimant in the lawsuit. 

The birth control policy was changed in 2011, when it was removed from the basic healthcare package, as it was labeled a nonmedical necessity by the Dutch State. The plaintiffs deem this policy discriminatory towards women of lower resources and aim to make contraceptives free and accessible to all. Now, according to the plaintiffs, it is mainly women who are paying the cost of contraception, estimating that 96% of contraceptives are bought by women and 4% by men. 

According to Femke Zeven, the spokesperson of Bureau Clara Wichmann, they believe that free contraception is a basic reproductive right for women and should be of equal access to all. “At the moment, richer women can afford the contraception that suits them best, while poorer women don’t have those options.” 

“There are so many benefits for women who use contraception to regulate their periods,” says Zeven. “If women don’t have access to birth control, they are at risk of not joining studies or getting the job that they want. They don’t get to participate in society the way that they want.”

The lawsuit requires support from the public, both in numbers and financially. Bureau Clara Wichmann and DeGoedeZaak have set up a website where supporters can become co-claimants in the lawsuit through the donation of at least one euro. Their website slogan is “Gratis Anticonceptie, Procedeer mee!” (Free Birth control, Join the Proceedings) followed by the hashtag #eenzaakvooriedereen (#amatterforeveryone). There are currently just over 2,700 signatures and according to Zeven, they are aiming for 20,000. 

Some AUC students have also expressed similar disapproval towards the current policy on birth control, such as Merel van Berge Henegouwen, a second-year Humanities major. “Many women use the pill for medical reasons, such as very painful and heavy or very irregular menstruations,” says van Berge Henegouwen — adding that “It’s not a matter of life and death, but it is arguably a medical necessity if the menstruation severely interferes with daily life.”

Esmée Stek, an UvA student taking classes at AUC, has been paying for birth control for over a year. In her experience, taking the pill is one of the cheapest forms of birth control available and has not affected her financially. She still believes that the current policy is unfair. “It’s not that expensive, so for me, it’s not that big of a deal to pay for it…/ but it’s still annoying because it used to be free.” 

“For others who are allergic to the pill and have to take other forms of birth control, it could be quite expensive,” says Stek, “I guess especially for [the] lower-class and students.” 

Since the movement began to take shape this June, there has been no response from the Dutch state. “In July we issued a petition with 55,000 signatures and an open letter to the Dutch State, but at this point, we are still waiting for a reply,” says Zeven. “So, as a legal organization we decided that now we want to start a legal procedure.” 

According to Zeven, there is no accurate estimate of how long the process is going to take. “We assume that the Dutch State will invite us for a few conversations. We don’t think we’ll be able to change the entire policy at once through the conversations, but if that’s the case then we won’t go to court.”

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has not answered any requests for comment.

Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was written, edited, and fact-checked by students of the journalism course. Some content may have been altered by The Herring’s editors for clarity and style.

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