tl;dr The Church of Norway cucks out of the abortion debate, and apoligizes for having taken a hard anti-abortion stance in the past.
The Church has long been engaged in abortion as an ethical, human and political challenge. When the law of self-determined abortion was dealt with and adopted in the 1970s, the church was a clear opponent of the changes that were introduced. Priests and others were strong and clear in their criticism of the law for the purpose of protecting the unborn life. Today, we realize that the church’s argumentation did not allow for a good dialogue. It’s time to create a new conversation climate. We want to contribute to that.
We acknowledge that the church has failed to understand the position that many women have found themselves in, and has also failed to give credible expressions of understanding for women’s experience and the challenges women have experienced. On the contrary, the church, as an institution throughout history, has shown a lack of commitment to women’s liberation and rights. We are sorry. As a church we must change our way of talking about abortion and how we care for people who are affected.
It is clear that the church’s attitude has placed a heavy burden on single mothers. Previously, children born out of wedlock could be denied baptism, and unmarried parents could not stand together by the baptismal font.
A society with legal access to abortion is a better society than a society without such access. It prevents illegal abortions and promotes women’s health, safety and security. It is not least evident in a global perspective. Internationally, we see that churches are still contributing to the burden of many pregnant women in vulnerable positions.
In Norway, we have democratic processes for establishing laws, and Norwegian law gives access to self-determined abortion within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Our focus is not to question the legitimacy of the law, but a law in itself does not solve any ethical dilemma.
From the conception, the fetus is a life with value and has a right to protection. Medical technology now gives us greater knowledge, as well as more opportunities to intervene and correct fetal development along the way. Much of this is a good thing, but here are also raised a number of questions that need to be balanced and clarified. This can put parents in a demanding situation.
It is positive that fewer abortions are carried out in Norway, and in particular that the number of teenage abortions is reduced. There are probably many reasons for this. The frameworks and support schemes that society can offer contribute significantly and must be developed further so that economic, practical and social conditions are not decisive in the choice to end a pregnancy. This is also a challenge for the church’s diaconia. The mission of the Church is to promote inclusive fellowship.
Embryos with developmental abnormalities and children with different disabilities are a particular responsibility for the parents and society. We will state that human dignity is given by God, and not dependent on functional ability. All people can live full lives. The goal must be for every child to have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, and that parents and guardians receive adequate and sufficient help and support. It is imperative that we as a society make better provision for these families.
We will encourage a broad and objective, open-minded and careful discussion of these issues in the future, and will also endeavor to contribute to it.
The bishops’ meeting, February 15, 2019