Nearly all abortions in Norway today are performed with the abortion pill Mifepristone. This has resulted in shorter waiting time, earlier abortions, and the possibility to have abortions at home.
"It's a success story," says Mette Løkeland, who has done research on medical abortion in Norway between 1998 and 2013.
In 1998, the waiting time for abortion was just over eleven days. Today the waiting time has decreased to just over seven days. According to Løkeland, this is the result of the abortion pill.
The opportunity of taking pills instead of surgery has also resulted in earlier abortions. In 1998, less than half of the abortions were performed by the end of week nine of the pregnancy, whereas in 2013 the figures had increased to almost eighty per cent.
"For women who wants to have the abortion as early as possible this is more easily accessible today. This is also in line with the preliminary work related to the Termination of Pregnancy Act, which states that it is both desirable and beneficial to have the abortion as early as possible," says Løkeland.
More than ninety per cent of her interviewees have told Løkeland that they are satisfied with the medical abortion procedure.
Complete shift in the Norwegian treatment of abortion
The abortion pill, whose official medical term is Mifepristone and is taken in combination with the pill Misoprostol, was developed in the early 1980s, but it wasn't available in Norway until 1998.
Norway has now some of the highest numbers in the world when it comes to the use of the abortion pill. The Scandinavian countries and Scotland have the largest percentage of medical abortions in the world.
In 1998 only about six per cent of the abortions carried out in Norway were performed with the abortion pill. In 2013, the figures are above eighty per cent.
"We have witnessed an almost complete shift in the treatment of abortion from surgical to medical abortion," says Løkeland, who normally works as a gynaecologist in Bergen and as chief physician at the Abortion Register at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
"The nurses have increasingly taken over the responsibility for the treatment, which has resulted in increased capacity and availability for the doctors to perform other tasks for other patient groups."
Satisfied with home abortions
While European countries have been restrictive in terms of allowing women access to home abortions, this practice has been the norm in the U.S. since 2000. Haukeland University Hospital started to offer home abortions in 2006, and it quickly became the preferred abortion procedure among the women who were offered the choice.
Home abortion means that the woman takes a Mifepristone, the abortion pill, at the hospital, and is given a Misoprostol to bring home. Thus, the actual termination of the pregnancy happens at home.
Critics have worried that having an abortion at home may be lonely and traumatic, and that the women don't receive the necessary health aid.
As part of her study, Løkeland has therefore asked 1018 women whether they were satisfied with their home abortions.
Of the women who had their home abortion by the end of week nine, more than ninety-five per cent replied that they were satisfied.
The women who were asked chose to participate in the study and chose to have a medical abortion.
"For those who chose this procedure themselves, medical abortion appeared as an acceptable and preferred procedure that they were satisfied with," says Løkeland.