About 10,000 abortions are carried out in Finland every year, most of them before the 12th week of pregnancy.
In practice, termination of pregnancy involves several steps, and a process that takes the woman from municipal healthcare centres to hospital specialists.
According to Satu Suhonen, specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, the process usually functions efficiently. “Of course there are differences between municipalities, but usually the professionals both in basic and special healthcare strive to move the matter along quickly and smoothly.”
Yle news interviewed a woman, for whom it took three weeks to terminate her pregnancy. The process was delayed by the difficulty of getting doctors’ appointments, and the fact that according to Finnish legislation, an abortion demands statements from two doctors. Counting necessary physical examinations, the woman had to visit healthcare specialists six times in three weeks.
Three weeks strikes Doctor Suhonen as ‘a long time’. Three visits to a municipal healthcare centre would, however, be rather common. “Especially in the case of pregnancy termination with drugs, three visits to a health centre could well be involved,” Suhonen says.
Valvira looks into prolonged waiting times
No detailed information on abortion waiting times exists, as statistics on the duration of the process have not been collected.
Valvira, the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health has, however, started to investigate cases involving unreasonably long waits.
Valvira attorney Riitta Burrel tells of a case a few weeks ago, where a young woman had to wait for the procedure for quite a long time. Soon two more similar cases emerged.
“One investigation request concerned a case, where not a single doctor qualified to give a statement was working at the health centre during the week,” Burrel discloses.
Authorities suspect that similar delays to pregnancy terminations may have been experienced in many places during the summer.
The wait can take a heavy toll, notes Viveka Kauranen, a psychologist and author on a book about surviving an abortion.
“Waiting for pregnancy termination is a trying time for a woman because abortion is still a taboo. It can be difficult to go to work, for example, and maintain a façade of normality,” Kauranen says.