Abortion history, laws, women’s activism, and abortion on demand in Norway

Sundby, J. (no date). Abortion history, laws, women’s activism, and abortion on demand in Norway: Abortion: The Unfinished Revolution.
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TitleAbortion history, laws, women’s activism, and abortion on demand in Norway
AuthorsJ. Sundby
AbstractNorway had a broad political discourse on illegal abortions and abortion complications way back in 1913, with a well known feminist Katti Anker Møller raising the issue. We continued to have illegal abortions until after the World War 2, but them the situation changed somewhat. The first law that allowed abortions on medical grounds was passed in the 1960ies and on social grounds some ten years later. In the later part of the old abortion law practically everyone who applied for an abortion got one, but the case had to be presented in front of a panel. Feminists, novelists and historians alike raised the issue sharply, especially the issue about how humiliating it was for women to make a case for abortion in front of powerful people. A PhD on abortion documented the issue more broadly, and eventually, after one failed attempt, a law that granted abortion on demand until 12 weeks of gestation was passed in the late 1970ies. Abortion rates remained nearly the same, but the debate continued afterwards, both the issue of late abortion, health workers’ objection to conducting abortions, and mandatory counseling have been suggested, but not really made it into the laws. Care for abortion is free of charge, and access to care is good. Medical abortions and surgical abortions are available, but a new legal attempt to expand the objection paragraph to also include GP’s who do not want to refer to abortion counseling, has brought back a forceful debate on the moral grounds for having a clear abortion law, and clear politics at the same time as it is legally allowed to be against the law. The conflict between empathy and care for vulnerable women is in the forefront of the debate. I am a feminist, researcher and OB/GYN who has experienced the clinical and sociopolitical issues around abortion in Norway for a long time, since I started medical school in 1972. I have also worked on research on abortion in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoir. I will discuss some of the issues that make this debate so complicated, and how it stops us from having a real debate about abortion dilemmas and its links with social context and living conditions of vulnerable women.