Norway bishops: Proposal to expand abortion abandons ‘Christian and humanistic heritage’ — By: Catholic News Agency

Ultrasound of baby at 12 weeks / arhendrix/Shutterstock

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 25, 2024 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Norway’s Council of Catholic Bishops is warning that a proposal to liberalize the country’s abortion laws “represents a step away from Norway’s Christian and humanistic heritage” and “obscures our understanding of what is, and is not, a human life.”

A special abortion commission instituted by the Norwegian government has recommended Norway legalize elective abortion through the 18th week of pregnancy and legalize abortion in some cases even later into the pregnancy. 

Current law allows elective abortions through the 12th week of pregnancy but only allows abortion in limited circumstances in the 13th week through the 18th week of pregnancy. 

Under the current law, abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy require the woman to submit an application to a medical association board, with each reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The proposal would eliminate this requirement through the 18th week. 

The bishops’ conference submitted a letter to Norway’s Ministry of Health and Care outlining its objections to the proposal, stating that it fails to consider the interests of the preborn child, establishes an ambiguous concept of human life, and undermines the country’s traditional values.

“The law proposal cancels the fetus as a subject entitled to rights,” the bishops wrote, according to an unofficial translation published by the website Coram Fratribus.

“The consideration of abortion has, in the strict sense of this word, a tragic dimension,” they continued. “In every case an accomplished abortion is an occasion for grief, a loss to the community. Only on this basis, such is our conviction, can our society rightly consider the welfare of all parties concerned in a way that is responsible and rational.”

If the commission succeeds in extending elective abortions by six weeks, the bishops warned that it develops an “ambiguity” on how society understands life. The abortion law, they noted, would treat the preborn child “as a growth on the women’s body, an organic parasite.” 

On the other hand, a woman who intends to give birth to her preborn child “may see a fabulous video of a 17-weeks-old ‘baby’ ‘in a very active period’” with the current technology. 

“We are able, at one and the same time, to regard an 18-week-old fetus as a nonperson and as a beloved baby displaying characteristic personality,” the bishops noted. “The criterion of difference in discernment is the degree to which the baby is wanted.”

The letter further claimed that the language in the proposal marks a significant shift from current law. The current standard, according to the bishops, recognizes that “abortion is complex.” It ensures that a pregnant woman considering abortion is offered information about support she can receive to continue her pregnancy and bring her preborn child to term.

Although “she is granted the possibility to interrupt her pregnancy within clearly defined boundaries … it is made clear that the choice in question is a matter of life and death,” the bishops noted. The proposal from the commission changes this approach, stating that women “are entitled to abortion” through 18 weeks, according to the bishops.

“The vocabulary of legislation is rhetorically translated from a register of humanity to a register to consumerism rooted in terms such as ‘right,’ ‘claim,’ and ‘quality provision,’” the bishops added. “The woman’s decisional process is entirely privatized.”

The bishops further disparaged the language of the proposal, arguing that it simplifies the complexity of abortion by characterizing it as a matter of individual rights and women’s rights — while neglecting to acknowledge the preborn child.

“Of course women, as men, should enjoy autonomy and the right to dispose of their bodies,” the bishops explained. “The question of abortion, however, cannot be reduced … to a question of gender conflict. What makes the question complex is the fact that it touches, not just one subject — the pregnant woman — but two subjects, inasmuch as the unborn child must also be recognized as a person.”

The bishops argued that the bill fails to succeed in its stated goal of protecting “the integrity of individual persons” because it neglects the preborn child. They add that it fails to uphold the principle embedded in Article 2 of the country’s constitution, which states “our values will remain our Christian and humanist heritage.”

“Is it to Norway’s benefit to develop legislation sentimentalizing the very notion of personhood, ascribing personhood to a wanted individual but withholding recognition of personhood from one that is unwanted, and on this basis expediting that individual either towards survival or to death?” the bishops asked in the letter.

“We hold that it is not to Norway’s benefit to develop such legislation,” they said.

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