Grounds on which abortion is permitted:
To save the life of the woman Yes
To preserve physical health Yes
To preserve mental health Yes
Rape or incest Yes
Foetal impairment Yes
Economic or social reasons Yes
Available on request Yes
The application for an abortion must be submitted by the pregnant woman. If the woman is mentally retarded or is suffering from a severe mental illness, the application may be submitted by the guardian. If the woman is under 16 years of age or is mentally retarded, the opinion of a parent or guardian concerning the abortion is also considered. Abortion is available on request during the first 12 weeks of gestation. Thereafter, a legal abortion requires the authorization of a committee composed of two physicians. An abortion must be performed by a physician. If the duration of the pregnancy exceeds 12 weeks, the abortion must be performed in a hospital; otherwise, it can be performed in any approved institution.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CONTEXT TEXT
Government view on fertility level: Satisfactory
Government intervention concerning fertility level: No intervention
Government policy on contraceptive use: Direct support provided
Percentage of currently married women using
modern contraception (aged 20-44a 1988): 69b
Total fertility rate (1995-2000): 1.9
Age-specific fertility rate (per 1,000 women aged 15-19, 1995-2000): 13
Government has expressed particular concern about:
Morbidity and mortality resulting from induced abortion No
Complications of childbearing and childbirth No
Maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births, 1990):
Developed countries 27
Female life expectancy at birth (1995-2000): 81.1
a Women currently married or cohabiting who were born in 1945, 1950, 1955, 1960, 1965 or 1968.
b Some women reported more than one method; figure shown assumes that modern methods were not used in combination with other methods.
Until 1964, abortions were allowed in Norway only for medical reasons. Under the law, a woman who underwent an illegal abortion was subject to imprisonment. In 1964, legislation came into force that broadened the indications for abortion. Although an abortion could not be legally performed on socio-economic grounds, such factors were to be taken into consideration by a board of approval in determining whether to allow a woman to have an abortion. Legislation enacted in 1975 legalized the performance of abortions specifically on socio-economic grounds if approved by the board and granted a woman an automatic right of appeal if the board refused to approve the abortion.
Norway’s current abortion law was enacted in 1978 and further liberalized the performance of abortions. A woman whose pregnancy places her in “serious difficulties” may obtain an abortion on request during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy after being provided with information on the medical nature and effects of the procedure and guidance regarding the assistance that society makes available to her. She is also entitled to counselling to enable her to make her decision.
After the twelfth week of pregnancy, a pregnancy may be terminated (a) if the pregnancy, childbirth or care of the child may result in unreasonable strain on the physical or mental health of the woman or place her in “difficult circumstances”; (b) if there is a major risk that the child may suffer from a serious disease; (c) if the pregnancy resulted from a criminal act; or (d) if the woman is suffering from severe mental illness or mental retardation. The performance of the abortion must be approved by a committee composed of two physicians. In determining whether to approve an abortion requested on grounds (a) and (b), above, the committee is to consider the pregnant woman’s overall situation, including the extent to which she can provide satisfactory care for the child. The woman’s assessment of her situation is to be given major consideration. An abortion may not be performed after 18 weeks of pregnancy unless there are particularly important grounds for doing so. Authorization to terminate a pregnancy may not be granted at this point in pregnancy if there is reason to assume that the foetus is viable.
The request for an abortion is to be made by the pregnant woman herself. If she is under age 16, or is mentally retarded, her parent or guardian is given an opportunity to express a view with regard to the abortion. If the woman is severely mentally disturbed or mentally retarded, the application is to be submitted by her guardian.
An abortion performed after 12 weeks of pregnancy must be performed in a hospital; before that point in pregnancy, an abortion can be performed in other approved institutions. A legal abortion must be performed by a physician. Health-care personnel who, on grounds of conscience, do not wish to assist with an abortion, must express this fact in writing, along with substantiating details, to the administrative director of the institution. The right to refuse in assisting in an abortion is only granted to personnel who perform or assist in the actual procedure and not to those providing services, care and treatment to the woman before or after the procedure. The right of health-care personnel to refuse to assist in an abortion has not been a major problem in Norway.
Any person who deliberately terminates a pregnancy or collaborates in such a termination in the absence of legal conditions for the operation or of a decision authorizing an abortion shall be sentenced to three years of imprisonment. Any person who deliberately gives false information in an application for an abortion or that illegally violates professional secrecy shall be subject to a fine or up to three months of imprisonment. The penal provisions do not apply to a woman who terminates her own pregnancy or assists in such a termination.
The liberalization of abortion legislation in Norway is closely tied to the development of the women’s liberation movement. During the period 1921-1968, women’s organizations played a minor role in abortion politics, with the medical profession and the Labour Party being the two major participants in the abortion debate. During the 1970s, the women’s liberation movement made a significant contribution to abortion law by making it a political and ideological issue. Mainly because of the efforts of the women’s groups, abortion was ultimately defined as part of the overall women’s emancipation policy.
Abortions in Norway are often used to time births. For example, studies show that the rate of induced abortion is high among women pursuing an education. Young women are also more likely to have an abortion than older women. In 1966, 30 per cent of women having an abortion were under age 25. The figure increased to 40 per cent in 1971 and to 50 per cent in 1979 and subsequent years. In addition, half of all pregnancies occurring to women under age 20 end in abortion.
Population Policy Data Bank maintained by the Population Division of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. For additional sources, see list of references.