Abortion rights in Norway
The political background for the proposed reservation possibilities for GPs
Our present Government is a coalition of the Conservative party (Høyre) and the Progress party (FrP). It is supported by the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party. All of them (the 4) agreed on a political platform for the next 4 years, which allows the two parties in government to come in power. They have support in the parliament from the other two and then have the majority. The Conservative party, the Progress party and the Christian Democrat party have together the majority, and need no support from others for the proposal. The Conservative MPs are split in this matter, but the leadership in the party will use their power and will not allow MPs to vote in line with their convictions.
One point in the platform (NOT supported by the Liberal Party), was about Family doctors possibilities to «make a reservation» because of their conscience in questions about abortion. When a woman comes to the doctor, he / she can refuse to help her further in the process to have an abortion.
- The question of abortion or these proposed changes were never a topic in the election campaign. The Norwegian people were presented this when the 4 parties had agreed upon the political platform, weeks after the election. The Government has sent the proposal out for public consultation. BUT; the case is in fact closed, because of the majority in parliament. It will pass through during autumn.
- The Government of Norway, The Ministry of Health and Careservices, proposes an addition to the health and care Act. The addition will provide a legal basis for regulation on the ability of GPs to opt out of receiving referral and treatment of serious conscience conflicts linked to life and death. With severe conscience conflicts linked to life and death meant primarily abortion. The authority will also include regulations on the exclusion of euthanasia should this be allowed. This authority shall not include prescription or insertion of contraception or referral for assisted reproduction. (Furthermore, the Ministry proposes a change in the patient and user rights Act. The amendment will provide the basis for regulations on extended right to change GP for patients on the list of a GP who has requested that reference to abortion.)
Municipalities should be allowed to enter into agreements with GPs that they can opt out of conscientious objection to refer women to abortion. GP who reserves, need to ensure that women on her/ his list who are considering or want reference to abortion, are offered consultation with another general practitioner close/ no later than next business day. Before the municipality may enter into an agreement for the reservation, the GP must prove that he or she has entered into a written agreement with a colleague who agrees to receive and refer the affected women.
GP that have so shall also inform women on their list who are considering or want reference to abortion that they can apply directly to the hospital without a referral from their GP.
People who listed to a GP who reserves shall be entitled to change to a GP who does not have reserved. This shift should not be considered as a replacement for the rules on up to two shifts per calendar year. Before the municipality may enter into an agreement for the reservation, it must ensure that there are other GPs nearby with open lists so that those who wish to change to a GP who not have reserved, can do so.
The Abortion Law allows women to make direct contact with hospitals providing abortions, but most women rely on their doctor to help them; information, they help them with reimbursements’ -to have free travel to the hospital (Norway has a lot of communities far away from the hospitals), to decide how far the pregnancies has come. The Abortion law also states the women’s rights to receive assistance to reference to an abortion.
It has been a big issue and a «hot» debate the last weeks, since before Christmas 2013. The Government and the people who are in favour of this, denies that this has anything to do with women’s right to abortion and keep saying it is not about abortion rights. The opposition thinks the opposite. It is a step toward less access to abortion.
The Minister of health says:
«Doctors only get the opportunity to refuse to refer for abortion if it does not compromise women’s rights for fast reference. This is superior to the consultation paper on the booking possibility for GPs.
Doctors in community health has no right to deny neither reference to abortion or prescribing contraception. They get it nor with the proposed new reservation possibility. But given the opportunity to refuse to refer to abortion if it does not compromise the woman’s right to prompt referral to hospital when she wants an abortion.»
Oslo, 14. February 2014
Solveig Hokstad, Sex og Politikk