The Icelandic parliament passed a bill which legalises the termination of a pregnancy within the first 22 weeks regardless of circumstances. Abortion was previously legal within the same timeframe, however a person’s decision to terminate a pregnancy after the 16th week required approval by a committee. That decision is now solely in the hands of the pregnant person.
Passed with majority
The bill was passed with 40 votes against 18. Three MPs abstained from the vote and two were absent. All members of the Progressive Party, Pirate Party, Social Democratic Alliance, Left Green Movement, and Reform Party voted for the bill. All Centre Party and People’s Party MPs voted against the bill, excepting Anna Kolbrún Árnadóttir of the Centre Party, who abstained.
Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson voted against the bill, the only minister to do so. “Women’s freedom cannot trump every other issue that comes up in these matters,” he stated as explanation. Two female MPs also voted against the bill: People’s Party MP and Chairperson Inga Sæland and Independence Party MP and former Minister of Justice Sigríður Andersen. More detailed information about the distribution of votes can be found on the parliament’s website.
Bill concerns 2% of abortions
A very small proportion of abortions are carried out between the 16th and 22nd week in Iceland. In 2015, 93.8% of terminations of pregnancy in the country were carried out before the end of the 12th week of pregnancy, and 4.2% between the 13th and 16th week, together representing 98% of all pregnancies terminated in Iceland. Thus the new legislation concerns only 2% of abortion procedures carried out in the country. Up until 22 weeks, Icelandic law defines termination of pregnancy as abortion, while after 22 weeks it is defined as delivery.
Independence Party MP and Minister Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir was absent for the vote due to a work trip, but expressed her support of the bill on her Facebook page. “I supported the bill in the second reading and support it in spirit today,” she wrote. “The timeframe is the same, the decision where it belongs.”
The new legislation also applies to minors, who are henceforth legally able to terminate a pregnancy without the consent of a parent or guardian. The article states that in connection with the termination of pregnancy, the minor shall be offered information and counselling on contraception.
Article 13 of the legislation also proposes a change in terminology used to discuss the topic, suggesting that þungunarrof (interruption of pregnancy) should henceforth be used instead of fóstureyðing (abortion, or literally “fetus extermination”), stating that the word fóstureyðing “has been considered a charged word.”