Norway proposes late-term abortion ban
OSLO, January 6, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Following an investigation into complaints by midwives that late-term abortions were taking place in the country in contravention of the law, the Norwegian government has tabled draft legislation that would ban all abortions after 21 weeks and 6 days gestation.
According to local reports, The Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) revealed that statistics from the country's Public Health Institute (Folkehelseinstituttet) showed that from 2001 to 2009, five babies were aborted at 22 or 23 weeks. Between 2010 and 2011, 12 such late-term abortions were carried out.
Some of the aborted children’s hearts continued beating for between 45 and 90 minutes, reports newsinenglish.no.
Midwives complained to authorities that the abortion law, which reportedly only recommends 22 weeks as the legal limit to abort, needed to be clarified because they feared the abortions taking place were illegal.
However, though Norway's abortion act allows late term abortions for "social reasons," it draws the line when a child is deemed to be viable.
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A panel set up to investigate Norway’s abortion laws found the current legislation ambiguous, and recommended an absolute limit of 21 weeks and 6 days for abortions.
Health department state secretary, Anne Grethe Erlandsen, said the government has accepted the recommendation and that draft legislation will soon be released for consultation.
“Abortion should not happen in fetuses who have the possibility of being able to live,” Erlandsen told NRK. “We must have the same practices and views on this regardless of the situation the mother is in, unless her life is in danger.”
A professor of paediatrics at the University of Oslo, who is also a consultant in neonatal medicine at the National Hospital, said he believes that an international trend in successful treatment of pre-born children well before viability outside the womb, and the survival of children born extremely prematurely (some at only 21 weeks), will lead Norway to lower the legal limit to abort even more.
"I would think that we might in a few years consider lowering the threshold for late abortion by one week. It depends on the medical developments in Norway," said Ola Didrik Saugstad to the Norwegian Christian daily newspaper Dagen.
"More and more places are offering routine treatment for children as young as 22 weeks. Norway has traditionally not done this, but offered treatment only at 23 weeks. We monitor developments, and it is relevant when it comes to the discussion about late-term abortions," said Saugstad.
The paediatrician said he believes that it is important to have a wide margin between late-term abortion and the age limit for potential viable babies.
"For example, in Japan there are reports of children born at 21 weeks who survive. I've even seen a few examples abroad, but never in Norway," said Saugstad. "What's interesting is that some parents are saying that the very, very smallest should be treated in Norway."