Mental Health

– This will make you keep your legs together

This was how to abort a 16-year-old in 1968.

- This will make you keep your legs together

The judge who decided about Tove would get abortion, put the shame on her shoulders. But it was not enough for the doctors.

– I did not know that the feeling of shame would hold the rest of life, says Tove Tägtström Nihlen (62) to Chamomile.


November 1968. She is 16 years old. The trees stretch bare branches against the sky.

Inside the waiting room at Aker Hospital, everyone is in the floor. It is so quiet, so quiet. She is cold inside. Do not dare to look at the mother sitting next to it.

Tove, named 16-year-old, knows that the mother would rather not recognize her as her daughter. Tove looks at his brown socks, the blue tights that protrude from the blue and green folding skirt. At the top she has a matching dark blue pologenser.

It’s important to look clean and tidy on a day like this one. The gynecological survey has been successfully completed. Now the board remains.

Her name is called up. She walks in alone.

There are certainly 20 white-washed people around an oval table. They are bad and at least 60 years old.

In the middle, against the wall, is an empty chair. It must be for her.

Their eyes follow her across the floor. It feels infinitely far away, and she has to twist over more white-clothed to get to the chair. Never has she felt less.

“I’m wrong as a human being,” it hurts through her head.

- This will make you keep your legs together

VONDE MINNER: -I still do not like to drive past Aker Hospital. There are so many wounded memories connected to that place. It’s as if I got a short stamp on the forehead. Photo: Gry Traaen

“How are you with children?” asks the tall thin man who faces her. “We suppose you’ve had sexual intercourse multiple times?”

- This will make you keep your legs together

1968: Tove (15) on a city tour the year before she became pregnant and took abortion. Photo: Private

Tove Tägtström Nihlen (62)

  • Married, one child, four grandchildren.
  • Is from Oslo, lives in Sweden.
  • Former alcohol and family therapist, as well as owner of several interior stores.

She shakes her head. Draws the nuisance that she has been raped.

The shame and the violent reactions at home make her unable to tell the truth. For all she knows, her grandfather has traveled home to Scotland. Did not she really like him once. He is five years older and managed more or less to get used to it.

Tove knows that the story is thin and she suspects that they are whitewashed through her. She will be sent to the hall again. Without changing a word, they go home to grandmother and grandfather’s big villa on Røa, where they live in an attached apartment together with her four younger siblings.


The weeks before have been awful. When the mother and grandmother found out why she had felt so nauseated and miserable lately, they loosed her.

They tore her clothes until they were filler, and her mother hit a big book in her mind. It was as though they wanted to kill her.

Only when Tove started screaming uncontrollably, the violence ended. She could not stop, just screamed and shouted until the doctor came and put a soothing syringe.

A few days later, her mother returned home from work at Radium Hospital with a glass pill.

“Take these,” she said. On the white label was “Kinin”.

She swallowed all the small white pills that tasted salt. Nothing happened.

Kinin can lead to spontaneous failure, vision loss and cardiac arrest.


- This will make you keep your legs together

– I can never forgive mom

A few days have elapsed, and mom announces abortion has been granted. How many weeks she’s on her way, Tove never gets to know.

No one prepares her for what’s going to happen. She travels alone through the city to Aker Hospital. Is she taking two trams, or one tram and one bus? She only remembers that it takes time. She tickles a sickhousebabite.

The nasty shirt with the opening at the back.

Long hospital stockings. Adds legs to the knee holders. Focuses rigidly on the big lamp in the ceiling. The tall, thin man from the board comes in with a nurse and another white-haired man.

“We usually give anesthesia, but this will make you keep your legs together for the rest of your life,” says the doctor, bringing a thin metal rod into her vagina.. The pain takes her breath away.

It’s like being beaten inside. The stick gets caught inside her and she is tricked into a six-person room. There she will lay a mute, with the stick inside, until the next day.

At night she wakes up that the bed is wet. She does not know it’s a fetal water.

The nurse coming when Tove rings in the string is unhappy. She tears off the bed while commanding her to lie still. Tove shrinks. As if she is not ashamed of before.

Abortion in Norway

  • 1842: The death penalty for fetus removal is removed and the punishment for the pregnant woman is reduced to between six months and six years.
  • 1902: Penalties are reduced to up to three years in prison. Abortion will be legal if the woman’s life is threatened with pregnancy or where birth can not be performed without the fetus dies. The individual doctor decides when abortion is legitimate.
  • 1913: Katti Anker Møller promotes proposals for liberalization of access to abortion and access to contraception. Strong resistance from the church, large parts of the play and many women’s organizations.
  • 1920s: Only at Ullevål Hospital in Oslo, eight women die annually after illegal abortion. The lab saliva abounds.
  • 1950: The Oslo Maternity Office opens the country’s first counseling service for abortion seekers.
  • 1960: Abortion is allowed for medical indications, as well as the ability to enter social criteria to some extent.. It will only come into force in 1964, so the government will have time to build relief measures that will enable pregnant women to avoid abortion.
  • 1967: The last woman dies for illegal abortion in this country.
  • 1975: New abortion law simplifies decision making. Still leave the decision to the doctor.
  • 1978: Women are entitled to self-abortion within the age of 12. week.

At the end of the day after, she is collected for the actual abortion. The drip syringe gives her a panic, and it’s an attempt to get her up on the bench and into the stigbøylene. The anesthesia takes her away from all this wounded and offensive.

She wakes up with a dry mouth in the same sex room.


She is in the hospital for a week.

Tove feels that everyone who works there radiates contempt for her and what she has done. Once upon a time she gets a friendly word. That’s when she helped out after fainting in the corridor. But no one shows any kind of care.

It’s as if patients like her are not worthy any more. At least it feels like the teenage girl lying in bed near the window looking out on bare tree tops and gray november sky.

The mother is not visiting.


The day she returns home is just Grandmother there. The tove feels dull inside and out and thinks it will help with a bath. Grandmother comes ashore as the water pours in the pipes.

“No, do not wash yourself dirty. You are going to get along for a month, just as you’ve set for yourself, “she says, turning her back.

And so it will be. The grandson shall be punished for shame over the house and family.

She is treated like air. That’s the way they punish the adults in this house. Either you get christmas or you’ll be banned. For a long time it is not covered to Tove at the dinner table.

How can a mother treat her daughter like that?

As an adult, Tove thinks that the explanation might be a blend of the pressure of being divorced father-in-law before the age of 30, and having to move back to the parents with the young flock.

In addition to shame about own abortion. The mother was also pregnant outside of marriage.

Morfaren paid a so-called “wise wife”, who stayed at Hersleb’s gate in Oslo, a good amount of money to get rid of the “problem”.

Toves mother was amazed at the kitchen table.


We meet Tove, who now has the surname Tägtström Nihlen, in Oslo.

An engaged, eloquent and energetic woman with short-cut hair and beautiful blue eyes. She has become 62 years old, is happily married to husband number two, has an adult daughter and four beautiful grandchildren.

- This will make you keep your legs together

MISCELLANEOUS: -I felt I was met with contempt. We’re there so easy again, says Tove, who aborted in 1968. Photo: Gry Traaen

For 41 years Sweden has been her home.

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“It was a flight”, she explains why she left.

The debate about the doctor’s reservation entitles her to tell her story to Chamomile. She will remind us of how many years it has been since she experienced what she did and that the right to self-abortion was a long, hard fight.

The attitudes I met from doctors, nurses and my own family can quickly come back. I’m wondering who it is that brings those thoughts back and what they want to achieve? It’s the woman, not the man, who has to bear the shame if the attitudes grow again. What I felt when I was in front of the board and how I was treated at the hospital was a confirmation that there was something wrong with me as a human being.

There is also a lot of shame and blame for sexually transmitted diseases, which means that many people choose to live with the disease in secret and thus constitute an increased risk of infection to others.

It’s hard to understand that your mother and grandmother responded as they did?

It was about facade, about shame and in their eyes to be unsuccessful. Secondly, it was enough time spirit. There was a lot of double standards, in addition we lived on the west side. My deceased mother even took abortion, an illegal one even, so she had known the shame himself. What I have wondered after I got a daughter is this: How could she not have empathy or understanding when she has been in the same situation herself?

Tove shakes his head.

Women living with lasting birth defects can also experience taboos and choose to isolate themselves completely from the outside world because the condition brings with them so much shame.

What did you think when you were granted abortion?

- This will make you keep your legs together

The birth injury that is taboo to talk about

– Relief. I did not know that the feeling of shame would hold the rest of life.

Tove can look back on a career that owns several reputable interior stores in Stockholm, as a consultant for state enterprises and 20 years as a therapist, among others for one of Sweden’s most dangerous men.

As a retiree, art and granddaughter is her great pleasure, in addition to him she describes as “my wonderful man”.

– I’m not a victim. But this exists in me, and I do not want it to be the case for others. I felt that the shame over what I had done was stamped in my brow. Abortion is never an easy choice. There are many thoughts and feelings before and after. We must be fellow human beings. Who really has the right to judge others? Women must be able to decide on their own body.

- This will make you keep your legs together

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