What is “Abortion in Sweden” ?

Abortion in Sweden

Abortion in Sweden
Abortion in Sweden
Abortion in Sweden

Section 1If a woman requests termination of her pregnancy, an abortion may be performed if the procedure is performed before the end of the eighteenth week of pregnancy and it may not be assumed that it will entail serious danger to the woman’s life or health on account of her having an illness. Act.

Section 2If a woman has requested an abortion or if the question of termination of pregnancy has arisen under the provisions of Section 6, she must be offered counselling before the procedure is performed. Act.

Section 3After the end of the eighteenth week of pregnancy an abortion may be performed only if the National Board of Health and Welfare has granted the woman permission for the procedure. Such permission may only be granted if exceptional grounds exist for the abortion.

Permission under the provisions of the 1st paragraph may not be granted if there is reason to assume that the foetus is viable.

Section 4If an abortion in a case referred to under Section 1 is refused, the matter shall be immediately referred to the National Board of Health and Welfare for review. Act.

Section 5Only a person authorised to practise medicine may perform an abortion or terminate a pregnancy under the provisions of Section 6.

The procedure must be performed at a general hospital or other medical institution approved by the National Board of Health and Welfare. Act.

Section 6If it may be assumed that the pregnancy entails grave danger to the life or health of the woman, on account of her having an illness or bodily defect, the National Board of Health and Welfare may give permission to terminate the pregnancy after the end of the eighteenth week of pregnancy, regardless of how far the pregnancy has progressed.

If, due to illness or bodily defect of the woman, the termination of a pregnancy cannot be postponed the procedure may be performed notwithstanding the provisions of the 1st paragraph and Section 5, 2nd paragraph. Act.

Section 7The decisions of the National Board of Health and Welfare regarding permission for abortion or termination of pregnancy under the provisions of Section 6 may not be appealed. Act.

Section 8After an abortion or termination of pregnancy under the provisions of Section 6 the woman must be offered counselling. The person in charge at the hospital or health care facility where the procedure has been performed must ensure that such an offer is made. Act.

Section 9Any person who, without being authorised to practise medicine, intentionally performs an abortion on another person shall be fined or imprisoned for a maximum of one year for illegal abortion.

If an offence referred to in the 1st paragraph is gross, a prison sentence of a minimum of six months and a maximum of four years shall be imposed. When assessing whether the offence is gross special consideration shall be given to whether the act was habitual or for profit or involved particular danger to the woman’s life or health.

An attempt to bring about an illegal abortion is punishable under Chapter 23 of the Penal Code.

Section 10The intentional disregard by a medical practitioner of the provisions of Section 4 or, subject to Section 6, 2nd paragraph, of Section 3 or Section 5, shall be punishable by a fine or imprisonment of a maximum of six months.

Section 11The proceeds of an offence under this Act shall be declared forfeited, unless this is manifestly unreasonable. Act.

Abortion in Sweden was 1st legislated by the Abortion Act of 1938. This stated that an abortion could be legally performed in Sweden upon medical, humanitarian, or eugenical grounds. That is, if the pregnancy constituted a serious threat to the woman’s life, if she had been impregnated by rape, or if there was a considerable chance that any serious condition might be inherited by her child, she could request an abortion. The law was later augmented in 1946 to include socio-medical grounds and again in 1963 to include the risk of serious fetal damage. A committee investigated whether these conditions were met in each individual case and, as a result of this prolonged process, abortion was often not granted until the middle of the 2nd trimester. As such, a new law was created in 1974.

The current legislation is the Abortion Act of 1974. This states that up until the end of the eighteenth week of the pregnancy the choice of an abortion is entirely up to the woman, for any reason whatsoever. After the 18th a woman needs a permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) to have an abortion. Permission for these late abortions is usually granted for cases in which the fetus or mother are unhealthy. Abortion isn’t allowed if the fetus is viable, which generally means that abortions after the 22nd week aren’t allowed. However, abortions after the 22nd week may be allowed in the rare cases where the fetus cannot survive outside the womb even if it is carried to term.

The issue is largely settled in Sweden and the question of the legality of abortion isn’t a highly controversial political issue.

Most abortions in Sweden are performed on women aged 20–24 years old, followed by the age group 25–30 years old, and teenage abortions constitute the 3rd largest group. Before the age of thirty most women have not established a family life and abortion is more common amongst this age group, with multiple sex partners in the younger age groups parenthood is less desired and abortion more likely. The fact that most women in the younger age groups are still studying, combined with them being new on the labour market, influences the choice to perform abortion.

Consensus in Sweden is in favour of preventing unwanted pregnancies by the use of birth control and the primary goal isn’t to lower the amount of abortions, but rather the goal is that all children that are born should be wanted. The number of abortions statistically follows the number of pregnancies. In comparison with the other nordic countries Sweden ranks high in number of abortions and low in number of young parents, while the number of pregnancies in relation to total population is largely the same in all nordic countries.

The 1st law on legal abortions was passed in Sweden in 1938 when the law legalised abortion on a very limited scale, and only on serious medical consideration, after evaluation by the Royal Board of Health. From 1946 abortions could also be permitted on social medicinal grounds. During the 1960s a successive change in Swedish society took place and the general attitude towards sexuality, as well as abortion, became more liberal. This, among other things, led to an increase in the number of permitted abortions.

The current Abortion Act entered into force on 1 January 1975. It permits abortion on the request of the pregnant woman until the 18th week and thereafter only in cases of severe indications of medical risk. After the 18th week abortions can only be performed after an evaluation by the National Board of Health and Welfare.

In 1989 the Board issued general advice on implementation of the law. From 1 September 2004, these were superseded by new advice and policy (SOSFS 2004:4).

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