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  • Induced abortion in Norway – fact sheet

Fact sheet

Induced abortion in Norway – fact sheet

Abortions in Norway in 2020 continue to be at a historical low since the Registry of Pregnancy Termination was established in 1979 and is now below 10 per 1000 women aged 15-49.

Abortions in Norway in 2020 continue to be at a historical low since the Registry of Pregnancy Termination was established in 1979 and is now below 10 per 1000 women aged 15-49.


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This is particularly due to a marked decrease in the abortion rates for women less than 25 years of age since 2008. At the same time we see a decrease in pregnancy rates for the same age groups. Women are to a lesser extent falling pregnant. Numbers of second trimester abortions are also decreasing to early 2000-levels.

2020

11 081 terminations were carried out in Norway in 2020 – this equates to 9.2 abortions per 1000 among 15-49 year-old women. These figures have been slowly decreasing since 2008. 

Table 1. Abortions in Norway, per 1000 women

Age groups:

15-19

20-24

25-29

30-34

35-39

40-44

45-49

Total 15-49 
years

2018

5,5

16,9

17,6

16,1

11,2

4,3

0,3

10,3

2019

4,9

14,9

17,3

15,0

11,1

4,1

0,4

9,7

2020

4,4

 13,6

15,3

14,5

11,1

4,4

0,4

9,2

Source: Register of Pregnancy Termination

Up until 2015 abortion rates were highest for women in the 20-24 year age group, but the rate has fallen since 2009 and is now below the abortion rate for women aged 25-29 and this year also below the abortion rate for women aged 30-34 years (figure 1).

Figure 1 2020 Engelsk.png

Figure 1. Termination of pregnancy at different ages in 2006 to 2020, per 1000 women. Source: Registry of Pregnancy Termination (Abortion Registry).

Figure 2 2020 Engelsk.png

Figure 2. Delivery rates at different ages in 2006 to 2020, per 1000 women. Source: Medical Birth Registry.

About the statistics

The abortion statistics are available from 1979. The Department of Health Registries at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) is responsible for the Register of Pregnancy Termination. Since July 1st 2006, the NIPH has collected information electronically. Prior to 2006, all terminations were registered with Statistics Norway 

Teenagers

The diagram in figure 1 shows that the abortion rate among teenagers today is reducing. In the 1980s, the rate was between 20 and 23 per 1000 women. The rate of 4.4 in 2020 is the lowest registered for teenagers since the register began in 1979. In 1979 women under 20 had the highest abortion rate among all age groups.

Young adults (2029 years old)

Most abortions have been carried out among women in the 20-29 year age group.  In 2019 there were 14.9 terminations per 1000 women in the age group 20-24 and 17.3 among women aged 25-29 (table 1) and falling in comparison to earlier years. We find a similar decline in deliveries for these age groups (Figure 2). For the first time the abortion rate is also higher among women aged 30-34 years at 14.,50 than for women under 25 years.

Regional variation

There has always been a variation in abortion rate per 1000 women between counties and cities among all age groups. In previous years these differences used to be more marked than they are today. In 2020, Troms and Finnmark, Oslo and Innlandet had the highest abortion frequency with 11.6, 11.1 and 10.0 terminations per 1000 women respectively. Møre og Romsdal, Rogaland and Agder had the lowest rates with 7.0, 7.1 and 7.8 terminations respectively per 1000 women. In 1980 the abortion rate ranged from 9.7 in Rogaland to 22.3 in Oslo.

Medical method on the increase

Norway introduced medical abortion with mifepristone and in 1998. Since then it has been an almost complete shift from mainly surgical to medical abortion. In 2020, 94.0 % of terminations were performed using medication alone compared to 45.3 % in 2007 (Figure 3).

Figure 3 2020 Engelsk.png

Figure 3. Abortions according to method 1998-2020. Source: Registry of Pregnancy Termination

Most terminations in first eight weeks

The majority of terminations occur before 9th week of pregnancy. 2020 figures show that 84.6 % of abortions on request took place by the end of the 9th week

Committee-handled abortions after 12 weeks

Terminations after the 12th week of pregnancy have to be approved by a local committee and the pregnancy can be terminated if certain indications are met. Reasons for most committee-handled abortions include fetal development abnormalities, social factors and/or maternal health. 

The proportion of terminations that are carried out after 12 weeks is just over four percent. In 2020 there were 508 committee-handled terminations.

Preventive measures

A series of measures have been introduced to reduce the number of terminations, particularly among women under 20 years of age. These include information about sexuality as well as easy access to prevention. Emergency contraception without prescription is available for teenagers. Public health nurses and midwives are authorized to prescribe hormonal contraception to teenagers. Other measures include free condoms, a free information telephone service about sexual health, strengthening of the student health services and the establishment of health centers for adolescents.

High abortion figures among young adults also indicate that women for different reasons wish to postpone the time of their first birth. The average age for giving birth is over 30 years in Norway. Due to the assumption that one of the main contributing factors to reduced abortion rates among teenagers has been the access to subsidized contraception, the Norwegian Directorate of Health has recommended the same subsidizing for women aged 20-24.

International

Today, Norway, Denmark and Sweden are entitled to abortion on demand up to a certain gestational age which varies between the countries. In Finland and Iceland abortion has to be approved following a list of broad indications and by consent of one or two medical doctors. Sweden has abortion on demand up to 18 weeks.

When the number of abortions per 1000 women in all ages is compared, the Nordic countries are on approximately the same level as other western European countries.

Statistics from the World Health Organisation give the abortion figures as ”abortions per 1000 births.” For Norway, the figure over the last five years has been stable at about 245 per 1000 births. Russia and other Eastern European countries have a significantly higher number of abortions per 1000 births than countries in West- and South-Europe. 

References

History

Reference for this fact sheet: Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Facts about abortion in Norway. E-pub www.fhi.no (date of download).

11.03.2021: Text, table and figures were updated after publication of 2020 figures in the Registry of Pregnancy Termination's statistical bank.