This report contains a summary and discussion of the results of supervision of the composition and activities of the Norwegian abortion boards in 2003. Supervision of the boards was initiated after surveys had identified regional variation in decisions and evaluations made by the boards. This lack of uniformity is an issue that has been brought up at the annual conferences for members of the boards. Thus doubts have been raised about legal safeguards for people who apply to the boards.

The Norwegian Board of Health has audited the regional complaints boards at the university hospitals, has studied and verified material collected from cases dealt with by the boards in a representative sample of hospitals, and has had discussions with personnel who have been involved with administrative procedures. The supervision was carried out during the autumn of 2004.

During supervision, the Norwegian Board of Health found no departure from current regulations, and the decisions of the boards were assessed as being in accordance with the regulations. However, similar conditions could result in a refusal in one board and acceptance in another, without departure from the regulations having occurred. The Norwegian Board of Health has thus established that the current arrangement with the boards does not exclude the possibility that decisions taken by the boards can be unpredictable and difficult to control at a later date, due to subjective factors and interaction between factors. Guidelines for improving the documentation of decisions taken by the boards could contribute both to improving control of decisions at a later date and improving legal safeguards for people who apply for an abortion.

Experience from supervision should be used in quality improvement, both locally and nationally.

Report from the Norwegian Board of Health 1/2005 (Pdf in Norwegian)

Summary in Norwegian