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Fact sheet

Induced abortion in Norway – fact sheet

Abortions in Norway are at a historically low level. This is mainly due to a large reduction in the number of unwanted pregnancies among women under 25 years of age. 8 out of 10 abortions were carried out before week 9 and more than 8 out of 10 of these were medical.

Abortions in 2016

13,169 terminations were carried out in Norway in 2016. The rate is decreasing for all age groups – from 11.7 per 1000 women (15-49 years) in 2015 to 11.0 abortions per 1000 in 2016. 95.7 per cent of all terminations were elective, and 80.8 per cent took place before the 9th week. 

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

2014 9.6

21.8

20.7

15.9 11.4 4.2 0.4

11.8

2015

8.3

21.1

21.1

16.4

11.3

4.2

0.4

11.7

2016

7.6

19.0

19.3

16.1

10.8

4.1

0.4

11.0

Source: Registry of Pregnancy Termination

Teenagers

The diagram in figure 1 shows that the abortion rate among teenagers  (15-19 years) is falling and is the lowest since the Registry was established. There was a further fall from 8.3 per 1000 women in 2015 to 7.6 in 2016. 

 
abortrater 2011-2016.JPG

 

Figure 1. Termination of pregnancy at different ages (år) from 2001 to 2016, per 1000 women. Source: Registry of Pregnancy Termination.

Terminations in the 20-29 year age group

Most abortions are carried out among women in their early twenties but the rate has fallen from 30.2 in 2008 to 19.0 in the 20-24 age group in 2016. For the first time, the abortion rate for this age group is lower than for the 25-29 age group at 19.3 (table 1).

Regional variation

The abortion rate per 1000 women shows large variation between counties among all age groups. In 2016, Oslo, Finnmark and Nordland had the highest abortion rate with 14.5, 13.9 and 12.5 terminations per 1000 fertile women, respectively. Aust Agder, Vest Agder and Møre og Romsdal had the lowest rate with 8.2, 8.6 and 8.7 terminations per 1000 women, respectively.

Medical method on the increase

Since 2008, most elective abortions have been medical. There has been a steady increase since the method was introduced in 1998.  87.5 per cent of terminations performed in 2016 were medical (Figure 2).

 
med vs kirurg abort 2016.JPG
Figure 2. Medical abortion (medikamentell) and surgical abortion (kirurgisk) in Norway, per cent. Source: Registry of Pregnancy Termination 

Most terminations in first eight weeks

The majority of terminations occur early in pregnancy. 2016 figures show that 80.7 per cent of abortions took place before the 9th week. 95.7 per cent were elective.

Committee-handled abortions after 12 weeks

Terminations after the twelth week of pregnancy have to be approved by a local committee and can only take place if certain indications are met. 

The proportion of terminations that are carried out after 12 weeks is just over four per cent. In 2016, there were 569 committee-handled terminations, approximately four per cent of all abortions. The majority were approved because of foetal development abnormalities, social factors and/or maternal health.

Preventive measures

A series of measures have been introduced to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. These include sex education, easy access to contraception, emergency contraception without prescription, and public health nurses and midwives who are authorised to prescribe hormonal contraception to teenagers.

With particular focus on the youngest age groups, measures include subsidised contraception, free condoms, a free sexual health information helpline, strengthening of the student health services and the establishment of health centres for adolescents.

Due to the assumption that one of the main contributing factors to reduced abortion rates among teenagers has been access to subsidised contraception, the Norwegian Directorate of Health has recommended the same subsidy for women aged 20-24.

International

Today, Norway, Denmark and Sweden are entitled to elective abortion up to 12 weeks, whereas Finland and Iceland require approval from one or two medical doctors. Sweden allows elective abortion up to 18 weeks. Finland has the lowest figures, and the highest proportion of medical abortions. When the number of abortions per 1000 women in all ages are compared, the Nordic countries are on approximately the same level as other western European countries. Russia and other Eastern European countries have a significantly higher number of abortions per 1000 births than countries in West- and South-Europe.

The latest report from the World Health Organisation about safe and unsafe abortion estimates that approximately 43.8 million terminations took place in 2008, of which 21.6 million were unsafe. Nearly all unsafe abortions are carried out in developing countries or in countries where terminations are unavailable because of legal restrictions or limited health services. The regions with the highest rates are Latin America and Africa, with 32 and 29 per 1000 women in fertile age. One in five pregnancies ends in termination worldwide.  

About the statistics

Abortion statistics are available from 1979 until today. Since 2006, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has been responsible for operating the registry and producing statistics.

 More information

About the fact sheet

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

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