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50K signatures for citizens' initiative on abortion law reform

Current laws are from 1970 and require two doctors' testimonials before a woman can terminate a pregnancy.

Image: Martin Shields / AOP

A citizens’ initiative to reform Finland’s abortion lawshas gathered more than 50,000 signatures from supporters, compelling lawmakers to consider the changes it proposes.

The legislative proposal seeks to do away with the requirement for a woman to get clearance from two doctors before she can have an abortion. According to the Feminist Association Unioni, the main sponsor of the initiative, medicalising abortion places an unwarranted burden on the healthcare system. It also unnecessarily prolongs the process, since the majority of terminations no longer require hospital procedures.

"This has long been in the works. I was involved in a 2011 project, where we gathered the experiences of women who’ve had abortions. They reinforced [the view] that the process is so long because it requires testimonials from two doctors and all terminations are sent to hospitals, although nowadays more than 95 percent of pregnancy terminations are performed medicinally," Association secretary general Milla Pyykkönen said.

She added that current abortion laws are a relic dating back to 1970 and do not respect a woman’s will.

The initiative particularly wants women to have the right to terminate pregnancies of up to 12 weeks without having to justify them for social reasons. Current legislation requires women to provide social or financial justifications for an abortion.

If a pregnancy poses a threat to a woman’s health or if she is under the age of 17 or over 40 are other reasons accepted for seeking a termination. The legal changes proposed in the amendment would replace all of these premises with a woman’s right to terminate.

Pyykkönen said that the Association and its partners have worked on the legal initiative for six months and that the launch was delayed from spring to autumn because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The Feminist Association had the support of several other NGOs on the project, including the Family Federation of Finland, the Finnish League for Human Rights, the Finnish chapter of Amnesty International, the Midwives’ Association, the Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and several other political, women’s and youth organisations.