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  • Writer's pictureAlina Stehle

No free contraception for Dutch women: court decision sparks debate

© Alina Stehle

A lawsuit seeking free contraception for Dutch women was dismissed by the appellate court in The Hague last week, leaving women with the financial burden and calling into question matters of equality.

In a united effort, five social organisations (Bureau Clara Wichmann, DeGoede-Zaak Foundation, Dutch Women's Council Association, WOMEN Inc. Foundation and Humanist Association) have come together with one mission: to offer cost-free contraceptives to women over 21.

According to them, high expenses for contraception can be considered as discrimination against women. It's the responsibility of the state to end this injustice, the organisations stated.

The court in The Hague rejected the case declaring it couldn't be proved that women had to pay for contraception. "That doesn't mean that in practice men and women bear the costs of contraception equally," the court argued. With this statement the court emphasizes that there is an inequality in the sense of women being mostly responsible for the costs of contraception.

In an earlier court case, the plaintiffs argued that free contraception is a human right. In that case, the court ruled that human rights treaties don't include a right to free contraception.

Bureau Clara Wichmann, who initiated both cases, expressed disappointment at the court's decision. Linde Bryk, head of strategic litigation, said: "The fight for free contraception is not over. Contraception is a fundamental reproductive right that benefits society as a whole."

The organisations haven't given up have announced that they will start follow-up actions for free contraception in the Netherlands. How the follow-up actions are going to look like is still uncertain.

"As women, we always take responsibility for contraception"

Not only the organisations are disappointed with the result. Women who are affected by the high prices of contraceptives, will suffer most from the decision. "As women, we always take responsibility for contraception," says Samanta Estevez Carias. In the past, she chose the pill because it was the cheapest option.

Looking back, "I put my body in this situation by taking hormones just because it was cheaper," says Samanta. She is criticizing that the pill can affect the health of women and believes that if the pill isn't free, there should at least be contraceptives for men to reduce the inequality.

Sanni Suhonen goes one step further and sees free contraception as a human right. "I could only afford the IUD (intrauterine device) because my boyfriend and I split the cost.” When she told people she shared the costs, many were surprised. The reaction of her friends showed her that it is still the woman's responsibility to come up with contraception.

Charleen Florijn thinks that most people take the pill because it is most subsidised by the government. She believes that "it is discriminatory and unfair that contraception is not free". The state needs to step in and readdress the inequality, Charleen believes.

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