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Fact sheet

Induced abortion in Norway – fact sheet

Abortions in Norway have been at a historically low level for some years now since the Registry of Pregnancy Termination was established in 1979, and the trend is still declining.

The decline is particularly due to a marked decrease in the abortion rates for women under 25 years of age since 2008. Women under 20 years of age in Norway now have the lowest abortion rate among the Nordic countries.

Abortions in 2017

12,733 terminations were carried out in Norway in 2017 - this equates to 10.6 abortions per 1000 among 15-49 year-old women. These figures have been relatively stable since 2000. 

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

2015 8.3

21.1

21.1

16.4 11.3 4.3 0.5

11.7

2016

7.6

19.0

19.3

16.1

10.8

4.1

0.4

11.0

2017

6.3

18.0

19.1

15.6

11.0

3.9

0.3

10.6

Source: Registry 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 years (figure 1).

fig 1 abortion trend 2017.jpg

Figure 1. Termination of pregnancy at different ages in 2001 to 2017, per 1000 women. Source: Registry of Pregnancy Termination.

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 Registry 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  (15-19 years) is falling. In the 1980s, the rate was between 20 and 23 per 1000 women. The rate of 6.3 in 2017 is the lowest registered for teenagers since the register began in 1979. 

Young adults (20-29 years old)

Most abortions are carried out among women in the 20-29 year age group.  In 2017, there were 18.0 terminations per 1000 women in the age group 20-24 and 19.1 among women aged 25-29 (table 1), falling in comparison to earlier years.

Regional variation

The abortion rate per 1000 women shows large variation between counties among all age groups. In 2017, Finnmark, Oslo and Tromsø had the highest abortion frequency with 13.6, 13.5 and 13.5 terminations per 1000 women, respectively. Sogn og Fjordane, Møre og Romsdal and Aust-Agder had the lowest rates with 7.2, 7.9 and 8.0 terminations per 1000 women, respectively.

Medical method on the increase

Norway introduced medical abortion with mifepristone in 1998. Since then, there has been an almost complete shift from mainly surgical to medical abortion. In 2017, 88.6 % of terminations were performed using medication alone compared to 45.3 % in 2007 (Figure 2).

fig 2 abortion methods 2017.jpg

Figure 2. Medical abortion vs surgical in Norway. Source: Registry of Pregnancy Termination.

Most terminations in first eight weeks 

The majority of terminations occur before the 9th week of pregnancy. 2017 figures show that 81.27 % of elective abortions took place by the end of the 8th week.

Committee-handled abortions after 12 weeks

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

The proportion of terminations that are carried out after 12 weeks is just over four per cent. In 2017, there were 546 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 authorised 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 centres for adolescents.

High abortion figures among young adults also indicate that women wish to postpone the time of their first birth, for various reasons. The average age for giving birth is over 30 years in Norway.

Due to the assumption that one of the main contributory factors to reduced abortion rates among teenagers has been access to subsidised contraception, the Norwegian Directorate of Health recommends the same subsidy 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 according to a list of broad indications and by consent from 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 are 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 western and southern Europe. 

Sources:

  • Report on pregnancy termination 2011 - Report from Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Norwegian only)
  • Medical Birth Registry statistics bank - For statistics about committee-handled terminations according to § 2, 3 c. choose table M1: Congenital deformities
  • Prevention of unwanted pregnancy and termination 2010-2015 - strategies for better sexual health - Norwegian Directorate of Health (in Norwegian only)
  • NOMESCO - Nordic health statistics
  • Abortion in Sweden - Sweden's published figures (in Swedish)
  • Nordic statistics on induced abortions - National Institute for Health and Welfare, Finland.
  • Health For All Database - World Health Organisation (WHO): European statistics

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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