DENMARK – Ethics Council to review current abortion law

Det Etiske Råd, the Danish Ethics Council, announced in December that it will evaluate whether Denmark’s upper time limit for abortion of 12 weeks, with a few exceptions, should be changed. The abortion law allows abortion on request. It was passed over 50 years ago.

Women in Denmark wanting an abortion after the 12-week limit must visit an abortion committee, where a case worker, a psychiatrist and a gynaecologist can approve or reject their case. Each of the five Danish regions has one or more abortion committees. There is also an Appeal Board. Last year, there were 803 applications for a late abortion; 53 were rejected. The reasons abortion may be permitted after 12 weeks, described in Section 94 of the Danish Health Act, are if the pregnancy, birth or care for the child poses a threat to the woman’s health; the pregnancy is the result of a crime; a risk that the child will be born with a severe physical or mental disability; the woman is unable to take care of a child in a defensible way due to her physical or mental illness or limited cognitive abilities or due to young age or immaturity; the pregnancy, birth or care for a child will cause a serious burden on the woman which is incompatible with the maintenance of the home or the care for other children. Emphasis is on the woman’s age, working conditions, personal, financial and health situation.

“It’s been a long time since Det Etiske Råd has looked at the abortion rules, and the issue is currently a hot topic across the European and US continents,” Leif Vestergaard Pedersen, head of the Council, told the newspaper Jyllands-Posten. “In Parliament there has also been discourse as to whether the time has come to look at this.”

Currently, the 12-week time limit is one of the most restrictive in Western Europe. The Ethics Council has not looked at the abortion law since 2007. Now it is time for a review, the Council believes. They will hold discussions on the subject with health and ethical experts, and publish their recommendations in a report in the summer of 2023. The Council cannot change the abortion time limit, however; these will only be recommendations.

The Council was established in 1987 to advise the Danish Parliament and authorities. It has 17 members. The Minister of Health appoints the Council, which deals with questions about biotechnology, genetic technology and environmental issues.

SOURCES: CPH Post, by Christian W, 12 December 2022 ; Ugeskriftet for Laeger, Sara Sofie Theibel et al, 1 February 2014