In Norway, the largest Christian denomination is the Church of Norway, with an estimated 70% of Norwegians registered as members. Originally, the church was the official religion of Norway, with mandatory membership, but today, the church and the state have become separated. The church has likewise historically been pro-life, while Norway allows for legal abortion. However, the bishops of the Church of Norway recently released a statement actually apologizing for the church’s pro-life stance and stunningly (and incorrectly) claiming that abortion “promotes women’s health, safety and security.”
“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,” the statement began. “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.”
The new conversation, evidently, means acknowledging that abortion needs to be legal, despite also arguing that preborn babies are, indeed, human beings deserving of protection. The statement read, stunningly:
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, abortion is legal through 12 weeks, and can be approved through 18 weeks if a woman files an application (most of which are approved). More bizarrely, the church still apologizes for not being committed enough to “women’s liberation and rights.”
We acknowledge that the church has to a small extent taken over the situation that many pregnant women have been 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.