By Jonathon Van Maren
Abortion activists in Scandinavia are outraged at a recent suggestion by Norway’s leader that abortion restrictions should be tightened in a few specific circumstances. Currently in Norway, abortion is legal on demand up until the twelfth week of pregnancy, by application until eighteen weeks, and after that in so-called “special circumstances” until viability, which is defined as twenty-one weeks and six days. According to the EU Observer, which accuses Norway’s leader of “playing politics with abortion”:
Norway’s conservative prime minister, Erna Solberg, has proposed tightening the country’s abortion laws, in a political gambit that goes against Europe’s liberal trend. Her idea is to amend paragraph 2c in Norway’s Abortion Act – also known as the Downs Paragraph, by reference to Downs Syndrome, a genetic disorder.
The paragraph allows abortion even after 12 weeks if the child was to be “seriously ill”. It also allows the abortion of a healthy twin if its sibling was to be ill. Developments in medical technology were leading to a “sorting” of human beings, Solberg said in a recent blog post.
“Many in our party do not feel comfortable about Norway, as one of the few countries in northern Europe, allowing the abortion of a healthy twin,” she said.
The move to tighten abortion laws in Norway, one of Europe’s most liberal societies, goes against a wider trend in the region…It is fully legal in all other EU states, including Nordic states, although women in Finland need medical permission to do it.
As usual, abortion supporters refused to address Solberg’s arguments on their merits, and instead organized a rally and accused her of playing politics. Notably, they did not defend the practice of aborting a healthy twin boy or girl while leaving the sibling alive (a procedure known in North America as a “plus one minus one pregnancy”), but instead insisted that opposition to this practice could only be an example of a politician casting about for electoral advantage:
Solberg’s idea prompted several thousand people to gather in front of the parliament, the Stortinget, in Norway’s capital to voice opposition on Monday. It has launched a national debate on the issue, but it is also widely seen as a political manoeuvre designed to keep her in power, rather than a principled stance.
Solberg’s government is currently kept in power by the conservative and anti-abortion Christian Democrats party. The tiny party, which has just eight MPs, never joined her coalition, but its support enables her to rule. Recent polls showed that its popularity in decline, so that if elections were held today, it would not even make the four percent threshold to enter parliament.
That prompted its leader, Knut Arild Hareide, to say it wanted to enter a ruling coalition – either a ‘blue’ one with Solberg or a ‘red’ one with the opposition Social Democrats party instead. The Christian Democrats are split down the middle on which way to go, with an internal vote due on the issue on Friday. Hareide has backed the red option and would likely step down if he lost, amid Solberg’s anti-abortion charm offensive.
That would leave Solberg as the big winner, safe in her seat until the next elections in 2021. But the Christian Democrats also seem set to gain from the controversy no matter how it plays out. The abortion and future coalition battle has catapulted the tiny party into the limelight in the Nordic country. Its internal debates on the election of local party members in Oslo were transmitted live on Norwegian TV on Monday in an unprecedented move. Its Oslo branch also registered 44 percent more members in the past few weeks.
Abortion activists are primarily concerned because Norway has tightened its abortion restrictions in the past, as reported in The Local in 2014:
Norway is to tighten its abortion laws after it emerged that 17 foetuses were aborted after the 22-week limit between 2001 and 2011. All the aborted pregnancies were in the 22nd or 23rd week. There have been no abortions later than 22 weeks since 2011, according to the figures from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
The practice came to light after midwives at Oslo University Hospital (Rikshospitalet), alerted hospital managers to the abortion of a healthy foetus, nearly six months into the pregnancy. The hospital was concerned that the law had been broken and alerted 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 foetuses that would be able to survive outside the womb. “A proposal for new regulations will soon be send out for consultation. Aborting foetuses that are viable breaches abortion legislation and how we believe it should be implemented,” she said.
There is something grotesque about thousands of people turning out to protest for the right to have one of two healthy pre-born twins killed by abortion while accusing someone expressing understandable revulsion at such practices of “playing politics with abortion” while they are playing politics with human lives. Hopefully, Prime Minister Solberg is serious about taking steps to restrict these inhumane sibling feticides.
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