Norway is to tighten its abortion laws after it emerged that 17 babies were aborted after the 22-week limit between 2001 and 2011, due to the vagueness of the existing law. All the abortions occurred in the 22nd or 23rd week of pregnancy. There have been no abortions later than 22 weeks since 2011, according to the figures from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
Public Health (Folkehelseinstituttet) figures showed between 2001 to 2009, five abortions were performed at weeks 22 or 23. Between 2010 and 2011, 12 such abortions were carried out. Some of the aborted babies’ hearts continued beating for between 45 and 90 minutes, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
The practice came to light after midwives at Oslo University Hospital (Rikshospitalet), alerted hospital managers to the abortion of a healthy baby, nearly six months into the pregnancy. The hospital was concerned that the law had been broken and alerted the Norwegian Directorate of Health, Norway’s healthcare regulator. Staff at the hospital’s maternity unit had complained about the fact that they had to carry out such late abortions while also working with premature births.
The women in question were granted abortions on ‘social grounds’. This category includes women who have become pregnant due to incest or rape and those who are mentally ill.
Anne Grethe Erlandsen, state secretary at Norway’s Health Ministry, said to NRK that abortions should not be carried out on babies that would be able to survive outside the womb. “A proposal for new regulations will soon be sent out for consultation. Aborting foetuses that are viable breaches abortion legislation and how we believe it should be implemented,” she said. “Abortion should not happen in foetuses who have the possibility of being able to live. We must have the same practices and views on this regardless of the situation the mother is in, unless her life is in danger.”
After the issue came to light the health department appointed an independent expert panel to examine existing regulations. Its report, delivered in September, said that the law was unclear and applied inconsistently. The experts said that the very last day an abortion should be carried out is the 6th day of the 21st week of pregnancy.
The Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF) welcomed the reforms. Health spokeswoman Olaug Bollestad said the law hasn’t worked as it should, and the abortion scandal never should have happened. “I’m not after scapegoats,” she said. “I am glad there will be a limit. We must ensure we have a system that gives healthy children who are over the age we’re talking about here the right to live.”
The Local. January 2. News in English. January 2.
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