It has been 50 years since Denmark relaxed its abortion laws, allowing women to have an abortion of their own choosing. At the time, Denmark was one of the first Western European countries to introduce these rules – largely thanks to the women’s movement. Now, 50 years later, women in the Scandinavian country are facing further liberalization of abortion rights.

On the occasion of this anniversary, the Danish Ethics Council has once again addressed the issue of abortion. He last dealt with the issue in 2004 and found it “thought-provoking” that hardly anything has changed in the rules since abortion was legalized.

Currently, women in Denmark can decide for themselves whether or not they want to have an abortion from the age of 18 until the twelfth week of pregnancy. An abortion after this period is possible under certain circumstances. This regulation has been in effect since it was introduced 50 years ago. Before that, women had to request an abortion.

On Tuesday, the Ethics Council announced its recommendation: 9 out of 17 members were in favor of increasing the deadline from 12 to 18 weeks. They justified their decision by saying that this would strengthen the woman’s self-determination “because she can process and implement the results of the first trimester examination, which is carried out between the 11th and 14th weeks.” There is also more time for possible genetic tests, which could contribute to a more reliable basis for decision-making.

In addition, the 18-week limit still leaves considerable scope until the point of viability around the 22nd week and does not pose any health risk to the mother, according to the nine council members. International comparisons show that a later deadline does not lead to more abortions. In addition, more than 90 percent of women who wanted an abortion after the twelfth week would get it.

Four members of the Ethics Council spoke out in favor of raising the deadline until the 15th week of pregnancy, and four others in favor of maintaining the previous regulation.

However, all 17 members of the Ethics Council are in favor of pregnant women being able to decide for themselves whether they want to have an abortion or not from the age of 15.

The Danish government also wants to lower the age limit. The coalition of Social Democrats, the liberal-conservative Venstre and the centrist Moderaterne party had already decided on this in May. The three parties have a majority in parliament, so a change to this regulation is almost certain.

The government has not yet reached an agreement on the question of increasing the one-week limit for abortion, but the signs point to relaxation.

The Moderates were pleased with the Ethics Council’s recommendations and were in favor of extending the abortion limit to 18 weeks, the party’s equal opportunities spokeswoman, Rosa Eriksen, told broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR).

The coalition partners are open to raising the limit, but are still keeping a low profile. “We need a political discussion and hopefully very broad support for an adjustment of the upper limit,” said Flemming Møller Mortensen, health policy spokesman for the Social Democrats, to DR. “We want to keep the self-determination of the pregnant woman in mind, but also consideration for the Fetus. But women’s self-determination is crucial for the Social Democrats.”

Social Democratic Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wrote in a post on social media that her government was already ready to postpone the weekly limit. “I believe we need to expand the rights of girls and women who experience unwanted pregnancy. It’s time to move our society forward.” She did not give a specific number of weeks.

A specific number has not yet been agreed upon by coalition partner Venstre. That’s because it’s a “very dilemmatic question,” said Linea Søgaard-Lidell, spokeswoman for the party for equality, to DR. “It’s a difficult debate. There are an incredible number of dilemmas. We have to address this question in the Discuss the faction before we can take a position”.

Health Minister Sophie Løhde (also Venstre) has called on the parties in the Danish Folketing to talk and negotiate the abortion limit. The government is ready to discuss the entire abortion issue on the basis of the Ethics Council’s new statement. However, the government did not commit to a one-week deadline from the outset.

Opinions are also divided in the opposition. Four parties – the New Civilians, the right-wing populist Danish People’s Party, the conservative Danish Democrats and the Conservative People’s Party – are against increasing the weekly deadline.

“Fundamentally, we are of the opinion that moving the border sends the wrong signal, as abortion should be carried out as early as possible in the pregnancy,” said the Denmark Democrats’ health policy spokesman, Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl.

Mette Thiesen, health policy spokeswoman for the Danish People’s Party, said three months is “enough time” to find out whether you are pregnant and decide whether or not to have the child. However, it is “reprehensible to issue a license for an abortion if the child is, in principle, viable.” Similar criticism came from the conservative People’s Party. “In the 18th week, the child can already recognize voices and melodies. We think that is too late,” said the party’s parliamentary group leader, Mette Abildgaard, to the newspaper “politiken”.

According to Section 218 of the Criminal Code, an abortion is generally punishable in Germany. However, the following exceptions apply:

Sources: Federal Ministry for Family Affairs,

The green party Alternative, the social-liberal radical Venstre and the Socialist People’s Party are in favor of increasing the weekly deadline. The left-wing alternative uniform list even wants 22 weeks.

According to a survey by the opinion research institute Voxmeter on behalf of the Ritzau news agency in January, 36.6 percent of the Danish population support an abortion limit at the 18th week.

Ultimately, however, it is Parliament that decides whether to increase the time limit for abortions and lower the age for abortions. The Ethics Council only has an advisory role and cannot pass laws. Health Minister Løhde wants to invite the other parties to negotiations in the autumn in order to reach an agreement with a broad majority.

Quellen: Ethikrat Dänemark,, Alliance for free abortion, Danmarks Radio (1), Danmarks Radio (2) “Politiken”, “Berlingske” (1), “Berlingske” (2), “Berlingske” (3), The Danish Health Authority, Mødrehjælpen,