Majority backs free birth control pills

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A key committee in the Norwegian Parliament supports a measure to either make birth control pills free or much cheaper, as a means of reducing the number of abortions in Norway. A pilot program in two Norwegian cities cut abortions in half.

More than 3,500 women between the ages of 20 and 24 were offered free “hormonal birth control” in the eastern city of Hamar and the northern city of Tromsø, reported newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend.

The program led to a significant increase in continuity among the number of women who no longer had to pay for their birth control pills. Researchers also registered a significant decline in the number of women who chose to end pregnancies in the two cities. Abortion statistics fell from 2.7 percent of the population in 2008 to 1.4 percent in 2009.

In two so-called “control communities” where no free birth control was provided, the abortion rate also declined, but only to 2.3 percent.

In 2008 there were 16,000 abortions in Norway, up by around 900 from the number in 2007. Oslo and Troms had the highest rates of abortion, and most occurred among women in their early 20s. State statistics showed 30 abortions among 1,000 women aged 20 to 24, and 23 abortions among 1,000 women aged 25-29. Around 67 percent of women in their child-bearing years in Norway used hormonal birth control in 2008, 80 percent of them taking birth control pills.

The Parliament’s health and social welfare committee was so impressed by the correlation between free birth control pills and the lower abortion rate that they voted last week to support much cheaper pills for many more women than earlier offered by the state. 

The leader of the committee, Bent Høie of the Conservative Party, called for a plan to cut the abortion rate in half by 2013 nationwide.

The Christian Democrats went even farther, calling for free birth control for all women aged 16 to 24.

Views and News staff