No Repeal

Being far away, I can only watch the current debate regarding the abortion repeal referendum in Ireland with anger, sadness, powerlessness and bewilderment. Living in the Faroe Islands for the past twenty-seven years, I have first hand experience of abortion and its consequences.

Abortion is available here up for to 16 weeks gestation, though gynecologists say it is normally limited to 12 weeks. Certain criteria must also be fulfilled before having an abortion. Some would claim that the criteria is too severe, however both doctors and women who have had abortions, publicly state these laws are quite elastic in their interpretation, depending on the doctor, and that in practice, few women are refused. The morning-after-pill is also available without receipt. Late term abortions may be acquired in Denmark, provided they meet the criteria there

Yet, the thirst for abortion is not quenched! Over the Summer, we experienced months of intense debate regarding the abortion law. Most people are in agreement that the law (from 1956) needs to be reviewed and possibly changed. This is pertintent now because the Faroese government is in the process of drawing up the country´s constitution, independent of that of Denmark.

Faroese abortion statistics per 1,000 births are considerably lower than those of other Scandinavian countries (1), and the Faroese people, as a whole, are proud of this and would wish to see this continue or drop even lower. The general mindset is that of reduction and containment rather than outright banning. Contributing factors to the low abortion numbers would seem to include the fact that the Faroese people see a new life as a gift regardless of the circumstances of conception and, in general, have good family support networks and social welfare support.

That said, there is a significant minority who wish to see abortion-on-demand introduced, either unrestricted or in limited circumstances. 

They maintain that abortion is a sign of progress and call on their Faroese brothers and sisters to become like the Scandinavian nations around them!


So what does abortion look like in the neighbouring nations of Scandinavia?

Well, let´s begin with DENMARK, of which the Faroe Islands are part along with Greenland. Abortion-on-demand is available up to 12 weeks gestation. After that, one must go through a committee to have one´s case evaluated. 94% receive approval.  98% of all unborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are also eliminated in the womb. Denmark is proud of this and intends reaching 100% in the near future...

If we travel to our SWEDISH neigbours, we see that abortion-on-demand is available for up to 18 weeks gestation. After that, special permission is needed from the National Board of Health and Welfare. In 2009, Swedish health authorities also ruled that gender-based abortion is not illegal according to current law and can not therefore be stopped. Added to that, the right to conscientious objection is not recognised in Swedish law despite the fact that it is a universally recognized human right. This means that a Swedish midwife who refuses to participate in abortions may be turned down for jobs in hospital clinics. I have reason to believe that this practise is not confined to Sweden, but also happens elsewhere in Scandinavia...

In NORWAY, abortion-on-demand is available up to 12 weeks. Abortions may also be performed after that, on meeting certain criteria. Norway legalized the practise of selective reduction abortion for healthy twins in 2016. This was recently extended to foreign women if they can prove that they reside in Norway. This was done despite medical professionals medical professionals warning of the dangers to the surviving twin. The right to conscientious objection, while legal, is also under threat in Norway as some object strongly to the idea of doctors have the right to refuse to perform an abortion on such grounds...

In ICELAND, abortions must, if possible, be performed before week twelve of the pregnancy. Abortions may be carried out later according to strict criteria. Yet, the country has reached the stage where 100% of all unborn chidlren diagnosed with Down Syndrome are eliminated in the womb...

In GREENLAND, we have the sad scenario where roughly half of all pregnancies end in abortion...

So which of our neighbours should we imitate? Who is the most ”progressive” Why should we even consider their paths? And what can Ireland and the Faroes learn from their mistakes?

The development of practices in these countries since the widespread availability of abortion and the experiences of the many post-abortive women whom I know would suggest that we need to take another path. In my experience, during discussion and debate, too little place is given to the scientific facts regarding human life; the humanity of the unborn child is denied, ignored or glossed-over; and discussions on abortion methods are practically non-existant or very evasive in their terminology. As for the various and possible consequences of abortion for many women, they often do not get a mention or are brushed aside. Not least, the stories of post-abortive women...

Many of these women speak about the pressure, emotional blackmail, threats and even violence, they experienced from partners, family, friends, work colleagues and professionals

They also speak of having had too little time to reflect and too little information about foetal development, abortion methods and possible consequences. Fear about the future and lack of support, finance and alternatives also play a huge role in the abortion decision. Way too many are given little or no support and help for post-abortion trauma, but are met rather with ignorance and denial... not least within political and professional communities. It is my experience that those calling for abortion-on-demand on the Faroes and elsewhere give little attention to addressing these troubling questions.

In fact, I see a deep schizophrenia and profound denial in Scandinavian society which leads to contradictory practices and a lack of open discussion about abortion and its consequences. If we begin to honestly address these issues rather than slapping on the abortion ”plaster” every time a woman finds herself in a crisis-pregnancy, we can create a better and more life-affirming world for women and for our unborn children.



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