Fraternal twins at two weeks old. The technical term for "fraternal" is "polyzygotic". Photo: multipleparent/Wikimedia Commons
The ruling, made by Norway’s Ministry of Health, is expected to open the way for women from neighbouring Sweden and Denmark, who where the procedure of “selective reduction” is not permitted in the same way.
“All women, regardless of whether they are Norwegian or foreign women residing in Norway have the same right to abortion and fetal reduction,” Torunn Janbu from Norway’s Directorate of Health told NRK.
The hospitals are not required to ask for a fixed address, opening up the way for a new form of abortion tourism.
According to NRK, several women from other Nordic countries had already contacted Norwegian hospitals about having the procedure.
Lawyers at Norway’s Department of Justice ruled in February that selective reduction procedures should be treated no differently under Norwegian law than any other abortion, and should therefore be legal up until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy.
“We don’t as the Directorate have anything to say about the ethics,” Janbu told The Local. “We just inform the local health services about how to apply the law.”
The decision went against the advice of many doctors, who fear that the procedure carries risks for the health of both the mother and the remaining fetus.
“We have not found any medical benefit from this,” Dr Birgitte Heiberg Kahrs, a specialist in fetal medicine at St Olav's Hospital in Oslo. “On the contrary, it exposes the second child in the womb to danger as the abortion risk increases.”
“Our recommendation was that this should only be allowed for twins if one fetus showed developmental abnormalities, and that it should be done between weeks 12 and 14 to reduce the abortion risk.”
Multifetal pregnancies are becoming increasingly common as a result of IVF treatments, although selective reduction is more commonly carried out when there are three or more fetuses.