Guidelines/brochures | Date: 18/05/2000
The Abortion Act
Women’s right to choose an abortion is regulated by The Act Relating to the Termination of Pregnancy of 1975. When the act was introduced, the woman had to fill out an application, then a committee of doctors decided if an abortion could be granted or not. In 1978 women themselves were granted the right to decide whether to terminate their pregnancies or not. This right is limited in time, and is valid until the end of the twelfth week of the pregnancy.
The Abortion Act regulates the rights and duties of women, doctors, and hospitals in connection with induced abortions. Most countries in Europe allow women the right to terminate a pregnancy within the twelfth week, but legislation varies somewhat.
To have an abortion, the woman must herself fill out a form at a doctor’s office, whether that be a general practitioner’s office, or at a hospital. The doctor is under professional secrecy. If the woman is under 16 years of age, the law states that parents or guardians should be allowed to make a statement, unless there are weighty reasons against it. The woman’s opinion is always consulted.
The doctor consulted by the woman is under obligation to inform about how the abortion is carried out, and possible complications. The doctor is also under obligation to inform about the support provided by society, should the woman decide not to have an abortion. The woman is under no obligation to ask for this information.
When the woman signs the request for abortion, she also has to confirm that she has received information about the procedure, and possible complications. The woman also has to confirm that she has received information about the support from society available to her. She does not need to justify her decision. The doctor shall, as soon as possible, forward the woman’s request for abortion to the hospital.
The Abortion Act gives the woman the right to receive information about contraceptives in connection with the abortion. This is the woman’s right, but she decides if she wants to receive this information or not.
The abortion is carried out at a hospital, and the procedure is free. It is usual to meet at the hospital twice – first for a pre-examination, then for the procedure itself. The time between the first visit to the doctor, the pre-examination, and the procedure varies. Usually, the woman stays at the hospital for observation a few hours after the procedure. At the pre-examination the woman is informed about the hospital procedures. The Abortion Act gives health personnel the right not to participate at the abortion itself, if they do not wish to.
The Abortion Act also regulates what happens if the woman requests an abortion after the twelfth week of the pregnancy. The woman may apply to terminate the pregnancy, either through a doctor, or directly to the hospital. A committee consisting of two doctors makes the decision about so-called late abortions. The committee is obliged to consider the woman’s reasons. If the application is denied, it is automatically re-evaluated by a new committee, called an appeals committee.
According to the law, abortions between the twelfth and the eighteenth week of the pregnancy may be granted under certain circumstances. These include the mother’s health or her social situation; if the baby is in great danger of severe medical complications; or if the woman has become pregnant while under-age, or after sexual abuse. After the eighteenth week the reasons for terminating a pregnancy must be extremely weighty. An abortion will not be granted if the foetus is presumed to be viable at the time that the abortion is carried out.
Act of 13 June 1975 Relating to the Termination of Pregnancy, with Amendments of 16 June 1975