Until 1964, abortions were only allowed in Norway for medical reasons. A woman who underwent an illegal abortion could be imprisoned.

In 1964, the law widened the grounds for abortion and in 1975, specifically allowed abortion for social reaons if approved by a board. A woman had an automatic right of appeal if the board refused to approve the abortion.

Since 1979, Norwegian women have been allowed free abortions on request during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After 12 weeks, an abortion must be authorized by two doctors, but is allowed for numerous reasons including 'difficult circumstances'.

After 18 weeks, the law allows abortion only when there are 'particularly important grounds'.

The liberalization of abortion in Norway is closely tied to the women's movement. From 1921 to 1968, women's organizations played a minor role in abortion politics, with the medical profession and the Labour Party taking the lead.