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Yle election compass: Majority of candidates support free contraception for under-25s

Candidates representing the Green Party, Left Alliance and Social Democratic Party were most in favour of the free contraception initiative.

The final day of polling in Finland's regional elections will be on Sunday, 23 January. Image: Emmi Korhonen / Lehtikuva

The majority of regional election candidates who responded to Yle's election compass are in favour of their region offering free contraception to young people under 25 years of age.

Some three out of four respondents gave a green light to the idea, saying they either fully or somewhat agreed with the statement on free birth control.

A number of municipalities in Finland currently offer free contraception to young people, but the extent varies depending on the region.

Women candidates were more supportive than male candidates about the programme, but a majority of men also backed the idea. Younger candidates were meanwhile more in favour of the proposal than older ones.

Some 6,400 candidates have responded to Yle's election compass, which aims to help voters identify like-minded candidates. A total of 10,600 people are standing for election in this poll, with the final day of voting scheduled for Sunday, 23 January.

Voters are choosing delegates for newly-formed county councils, which will oversee social, healthcare and emergency services from the beginning of 2023.

Finns only main party against free contraception idea

The candidates from almost all of Finland's main parliamentary parties said they had a positive attitude towards providing free contraception to young people, with respondents from the Green Party, the Left Alliance and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) most in favour of such an initiative.

Siru Nykänen, a regional election candidate for the SDP in the southern city of Porvoo, told Yle that she supports the idea.

"Free contraception can reduce unplanned pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted diseases," Nykänen said, adding that the initiative can also help to prevent trauma and mental health problems potentially triggered by abortions.

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Social Democratic Party candidate Siru Nykänen. Image: Ilkka Klemola / Yle

However, members of the Finns Party were not so enthusiastic about the initiative.

Toni Halonen, a Finns Party candidate in the Kanta-Häme region, replied to the question in Yle's regional election machine that free contraception would not be worth the expense.

"When the welfare regions get to work, I would first like to see how the economics are rolled out. There is no crisis with this. There is no public emergency," Halonen said.

However, if free contraception were offered to people under the age of 25, Halonen said it should be offered to all and not just to lower-income groups.

"Then it would be equal and fair," he added.

Family Federation: Free contraception is "matter of equality"

The Family Federation of Finland, or Väestöliitto in Finnish, has been calling for free contraception to be provided to young people for years.

The federation's specialist Maria Nikunlaakso also told Yle the providing of free contraception should first and foremost be a matter of equality.

When municipalities offer free contraception to all young people, it does not depend on the socio-economic status of the young person or the young person's parents or on the parent's attitudes, she said.

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The Family Federation of Finland's specialist Maria Nikunlaakso. Image: John Palmén / Yle

Another important issue is the opportunity for young people to discuss sexual health issues with professionals, Nikunlaakso added.

"It is about every young person having the right to take care of their own sexual health. It increases the young person's own agency," she said.

More municipalities offering free contraception

The number of municipalities in Finland which offer free contraception to young people has increased rapidly in recent years.

According to Nikunlaakso, only a handful of municipalities offered free contraception in 2015, but this number had risen to about 40 municipalities by 2019 and the current number is estimated to be about 100.

This means that some form of free contraception is on offer to young people in about one third of Finnish municipalities. However, the extent of the offerings varies depending on the region.

However, Nikunlaakso added, the benefits of the scheme are particularly evident in the reduced number of abortions in regions that have adopted the initiative.

"In Vantaa, for example, abortions for those under 20 have decreased by more than 36 percent and also significantly for those under 25," she said, adding that aside from the human aspect, there are also cost savings associated with the scheme.

Yle News' most recent episode of the All Points North podcast asks if Finland's voters care about healthcare.

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