Denmark to liberalize its abortion law to allow the procedure until 18th week of pregnancy

Denmark’s government says it is relaxing its restrictions on abortion for the first time in 50 years to make it legal for women to terminate pregnancies up to the 18th week from the previous 12th week

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark's government said Friday it is relaxing its restrictions on abortion for the first time in 50 years to make it legal for women to terminate pregnancies up to the 18th week from the previous 12th week.

Officials said the law will also be changed to allow girls between 15 and 17 years old to have an abortion without parental consent.

Marie Bjerre, the gender equality minister, said Denmark is strengthening women's rights while they are being rolled back in other parts of the world.

“It is about the individual woman’s freedom, about the right to decide over her own body and her own life. It is a historic day for women’s equality,” she said.

Free abortion was introduced in Denmark in 1973. The limit was set at up to 12 weeks because “at that time all abortions were performed surgically, and at that time an abortion after the 12th week entailed a greater risk of complications,” the health ministry said.

“After 50 years, it is time for the abortion rules to keep up with the times,” Health Minister Sophie Løhde said.

She said neighboring Sweden, which set the legal limit at 18 weeks of gestation in 1996, has not experienced a significant increase in the number of abortions or when they are carried out.

The three-party center government agreed on the move with two left-leaning groups, the Socialist People’s Party and the Red-Green Alliance, and two center parties, the Social Liberals and the Alternative. The deal is to be sealed by a vote in parliament. No date for that was announced, but it is all but certain to pass because the government has a majority.

The change is expected to enter into force on June 1, 2025.

The health ministry said the legal age of consent in Denmark is 15, and a 15-year-old girl can make her own choices about her own body.

Bjerre said that she hoped that “young women can find support from their parents. But if there is disagreement, it must ultimately be the young woman’s own decision whether she wants to be a mother. It is her body and her life.”

Lawmaker Mette Thiesen, from a populist, anti-immigration party that was not part of the deal, called it ”a terrible day. It’s a terrible new law.”

There is a “very fine balance between the woman’s right to her own body, but also the right to life of the little life that lies in the mother’s womb,” she told Danish broadcaster DR. “In week 18, we are talking about a small person with fingers and toes, which you can feel inside the womb."

Figures from the Danish Health Data Authority show that the total number of abortions in Denmark has been stable in recent years. In 2022 there were 14,700 medical abortions, compared to 14,500 in 2017. It peaked in 1975 when 27,900 abortions were performed.

While abortion is a deeply divisive issue in the United States, it is broadly legal across Europe.

France inscribed the guaranteed right to abortion in its constitution in a world first this year, sending a powerful message of support to women around the globe. Meanwhile, Poland's parliament held a long-awaited debate on liberalizing the country's restrictive law last month — although many women terminate pregnancies at home with pills mailed from abroad.

In Germany, which has a more restrictive approach than many other European countries, an independent commission reviewing abortion law recently recommended that the procedure be made legal during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.