FINLAND – Finland reforms outdated abortion law

Lawmakers in Finland have approved a legislative reform that will ease the process of getting an abortion. Finland’s previous law, dating back to 1970, was seen by many citizens as outdated. The vote took place on 26 October. It was passed by a large majority: 125 to 41. The new law abolished the need for approval from two doctors to terminate a pregnancy. Now only one doctor’s approval is required. Abortion will be on request up to 12 weeks; no other reasons will be required. It is likely to take effect in early 2023. The law reform was initiated in 2020 through a citizens’ initiative that collected 53,654 signatures (50,000 minimum is required) for it to be dealt with by lawmakers. On 28 June 2022, the Helsinki Times reported that the Green League, Left Alliance, Movement Now, National Coalition, Social Democrats and Swedish People’s Party all expressed their support for the aims of the citizens’ initiative, while Saara-Sofia Sirén (NCP) said she had prepared a proposal to define the right to abortion as a constitutional right. Mia Laiho (photo above), deputy chairperson of the Social Affairs and Health Committee, thought it was unlikely that the submitted initiative would be passed in full, but that lawmakers would move forward with some of the proposed revisions rather quickly. “It’s my understanding that the vast majority of the Committee supports revising the law in some respects. A broader reform that requires more work would be needed in future,” she told Helsingin Sanomat.The Centre and Finns Party were divided on the reforms, while the Christian Democrats were outright opposed. Initially, the parliament rejected the initiative, but following the findings of the Social Affairs and Health Committee, it approved most of its content.The 1970 law permitted abortion if delivery and care of a child would place a strain on the woman, given the living conditions of the woman or her family, or if she was under age 17, or if she was over age 40 and had four children. It also allowed abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy in the event of fetal deformity or a physical threat to the woman’s health. Presumably these grounds remain.SOURCES: Helsinki Times, 28 June 2022 + PHOTO by Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva; The Star, Associated Press, 26 October 2022 ; Euractiv, by Pekka Vanttinen, 28 October 2022 ; Global Abortion Policies Database, Law on Abortion 1970, 30 June 2022