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Finland set to ease abortion restrictions

Finland has the Nordic region's strictest abortion law, requiring approval from two doctors to terminate a pregnancy. The legislation, which dates back to the 1970s, has been criticised as outdated.

A woman looks at the result of a pregnancy test (file photo). Image: AOP

Getting an abortion is set to become easier in Finland.

A majority of MPs on the Finnish Parliament's Social Affairs and Health Committee back changes to legislation to make it simpler to terminate a pregnancy.

Under current law, anyone wishing to have an abortion performed must first obtain statements from two doctors. The committee now plans to change the legislation so that one doctor's opinion would be enough to terminate a pregnancy.

In addition, a pregnant person would no longer need to present social or other reasons to justify get an abortion. Instead a pregnancy could be terminated before the 12th week of pregnancy at her request.

In addition, the committee called on the government to immediately launch a comprehensive reform of the law so that it strengthens women's right to self-determination.

Centre, Christian Democrats, some Finns Party MPs oppose

The committee split largely along party lines in the vote.

Backing the changes were representatives of four government parties: Prime Minister Sanna Marin's SDP, the Greens, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People's Party – as well as the main opposition party, the National Coalition.

Opposing the change were MPs from the second-biggest government party, the Centre, as well as some lawmakers from the opposition Finns Party. The committee voted 12–5 in favour of easing the abortion law. All five 'no' votes were from male MPs.

On Thursday, the committee completed its report in response to a 2020 citizens' initiative that urged reform of the abortion law. At the same time, it discussed a parallel legislative initiative presented by a group of MPs. Both initiatives have proposed numerous changes to the existing law.

The committee report was not adopted unanimously due to objections from Centre and Finns Party MPs. This means that when the report goes to a plenary session of Parliament, it must still be voted on.

The opposition Christian Democrats have also opposed moves toward making abortion easier. All of the other parliamentary groups support the changes, making passage virtually assured.

Backers of the reform argued that the current legislation – which is half a century old – is outdated in regard to a woman's right to self-determination. Finland has the Nordic region's strictest abortion law.

Waiving the requirement for two doctors' opinions and other changes will also reduce the burden on the overcrowded healthcare system, proponents said.

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