SILENCED. The history of abortion in Norway

The history of abortion laws is a hidden history. A very old taboo. Is it still?

Many young Norwegians find it hard to belive that women risked imprisonment for abortions right up until 1975. This exhibition displays the changes in the legal system, from Christian V's law of 1687. The personal stories of individual women gives an insight into the human aspect, as well as the legal.

"Silenced. The history of abortion in Norway" ("Fortiet. Aborthistorien") was produced by the Women's Museum and opened in 2004. The texts in the web exhibition were all written during the production.

Unwanted pregnancies have been the source of much unhappiness. This was what made some pioneers, Katti Anker Møller being the most famous, begin the struggle for legalized abortions, as well as attempting to inform the people about contraception and family planning.

The struggle has been long and hard. Those in favour of legalizing abortion met a lot of opposition. The abortion debate touches the really tricky ethical questions, questions of life and death, and not only from a religious perspective. Abortion has traditionally been a theme one wasn't supposed to talk about. And isn't it still, to a certain extent? With this exhibition, the Women's Museum wants to contribute to breaking this tradition. 

In pre-Christian times, children were sometimes left out in the woods to die, but with the introduction of Christianity, such practices were made illegal. Abortion was then the only option, and women turned to herbalism and magic formulas. Archbishop Pål Bårdsson's law against abortion was introduced in Norway around 1340. Our story starts with the abortion law from 1687.