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Opposing abortion in a feminist paradise: Conservative rhetoric in Iceland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2022

Gunnar Sigvaldason*
Faculty of Political Science, University of Iceland
Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir*
Faculty of Political Science, University of Iceland
*Corresponding author. Email:;
*Corresponding author. Email:;


This article addresses the conservative opposition to Iceland’s recently liberalised abortion laws. It argues that the opposition belongs to a long and rich history of conservatives willing to employ diverse measures to oppose progress. It further claims that the rhetoric employed has strong roots in the conservative tradition. This is demonstrated by the fact that the discourse in Iceland fits within Hirschman’s analytical framework, through which he analyses the main arguments of conservatives in the past. Icelandic conservatives argued that the proposed legislation would lead to the perverse effect that healthy foetuses would be aborted, that the legislation was futile, as the system was already well-functioning, and that it would jeopardise women by giving them the sole responsibility of deciding whether to terminate a pregnancy. The article sheds light on the underlying resistance to women’s bodily autonomy and right to self-determination. It also illustrates the importance of hierarchy and conservatism’s opposition to equality that is perceived to be taken too far. In light of global trends, where conservatives have tried to implement policies that are hostile towards women and women’s interests, it is important to explore national contexts where legislative success has been achieved despite global backlash.

Research Article
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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