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K.V. Turley

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Abortion debate in Norway unexpectedly opens up

K.V. Turley

OSLO, Norway, November 22, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Last Saturday, thousands of pro-abortionists demonstrated in Norwegian cities against ongoing discussions about restricting the country’s abortion law. The possibility of changes to the laws around abortion is the subject of talks between Norway’s ruling minority coalition and a smaller party needed to create a parliamentary majority. 

During these demonstrations, protesters waved placards and shouted familiar slogans: “My body, my right” and “Defend abortion.” Some taking part were ironically pushing children in prams. These demonstrations and their slogans are all too familiar on the streets of North America and recently in Ireland but it comes as a surprise to see such demonstrations on the streets of Scandinavia, a part of Europe known for having liberal abortion laws for many decades.

The reason for this is a simple one. It is also one that is becoming all too familiar across Europe, namely, ruling political parties needing to do deals with smaller parties to prop up minority governments.

In September 2017, following Norway’s general election, Erna Solberg, the head of Høyre remained as Prime Minister but governed in coalition with the right-wing FrP (the Progress Party). Even with that smaller party as part of her governing coalition, it was still a minority government with no parliamentary majority. Therefore, Solberg still needed to find other parliamentary allies to make her administration viable.  Currently, in the Norwegian parliament, there are two other parties on the right that could make possible coalition partners: Venstre (the Liberals) and KrF (the Christian Democrats). 

Norway’s Christian Democrats (KrF) state that they have “a vision of building an open society based on Christian and humanistic values”, one that “protects life and human dignity”. The party was founded in 1933 in reaction to the then growing secularism in Norway. From its inception, KrF emphasized both cultural and spiritual values that aimed to create an alternative to other political parties whose values were solely material. In the 1970s, the public debate over abortion became increasingly significant for the party, which experienced some of its best election results, then regularly polling around 12 per cent of the national vote. In 1997, the party achieved its best ever election result, with 25 of its candidates elected to parliament polling 13.7 per cent of the national vote. At the 2017 election, the party polled 5.6% of votes, winning 10 seats. 

Venstre’s 9 members of parliament joined the ruling coalition after securing some key appointments to government departments. In terms of parliamentary numbers, however, the sole addition of this smaller party is not enough to give a majority to Prime Minister Solberg. 

So earlier this month when the KrF began discussions with the opposition Arbeiderspartiet (the Labour Party) about the possibility of the two parties forming a government, Solberg was forced to intervene. This was necessary given that this alternate coalition would have the parliamentary numbers necessary to bring down the Høyre led government. It was at this point that Solberg offered to discuss tightening Norway’s abortion laws with the KrF.

Solberg’s intervention appears to have worked. Her proposal helped persuade rank-and-file members of KrF to agree to talks with Høyre about joining the ruling coalition. If this new political alliance were to come about, it would secure Prime Minister Solberg a majority in parliament, and this could see her safely in power until the next scheduled election in 2021.

On the subject of abortion, the KrF are asking for restrictions to, or an end to, abortions from the twelfth week of pregnancy, thereby potentially reining in the current exemptions for genetic conditions. 

Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, deputy leader of the KrF, told Norway’s public broadcaster NRK earlier this month that it was "discriminating" to target for abortion children with Down Syndrome, adding that they "should have the same legal rights as other children.” 

Abortion began to be legalized in Norway from 1964 onwards. In 2017 there were 12,733 abortions recorded in Norway. Since 1978, Norwegian law states that any abortion performed after 12 weeks must be authorized by a panel of two hospital doctors. However, if that panel refuses to proceed further with the procedure then that decision can be appealed and overturned.

Norway’s Prime Minister has not suddenly become a pro-lifer, however. In an effort to stop any backlash within her own party, as well as to quell opposition from political opponents and pro-abortion groups, Solberg told the Norwegian parliament last week that “women who seek an abortion after the twelfth week of pregnancy will as much as before have the right to have an abortion.” 

So, the negotiations and discussion on abortion law in Norway have begun, but it is unclear as to how matters will proceed further. Norway like the rest of Scandinavia is largely socially liberal. On 9 November 2018, the daily newspaper Verdens Gang published a poll that found 68 percent of Norwegians are against changing the country’s abortion law, with just 16 percent in favor of a change. The poll was of 1,000 participants, surveyed by telephone.

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