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Foreign Minister Soini riles fellow politicians with anti-abortion comments

Timo Soini has again made public comments about his opposition to abortion; a move that many of his colleagues in Finnish politics believe is inappropriate.

Timo Soini
Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini is a practicing Catholic Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Timo Soini has once again set off a storm of indignation in Finland after writing a blog entry on Thursday praising Argentina for its decision to keep abortion illegal.

"Argentina is a lovely country. The Pope is an Argentinean who is widely listened to and respected. Words have weight," he wrote in his popular online journal on August 9.

At the bottom of the entry, he says "And what do I think of the Senate's decision from last night?" As his response, he added an emoji face blowing a kiss.

Angry responses to his blog filled the Twitter forum on Friday, as politicians and women's advocates joined others in condemning his view.

Many demanded that the government make it clear that Soini does not represent Finland's stance on abortion.

For example, Greens MP Emma Kari tweeted: "Finland's Foreign Minister rejoices that the reproductive rights of women in Argentina have been torpedoed. Are Juha Sipilä and Petteri Orpo planning to give their silent approval again for this trampling of women's rights? Is this Finland's policy?"

SDP MP Nasima Razmyar wrote the following tweet: "Timo Soini's abortion stance is an embarrassment for Finland. Where does the government draw the line? A foreign minister representing Finland cannot praise Argentina's stamping on the rights of women."

Fellow ministers highly critical

Criticism of Blue Reform minister Soini's comments was not limited to just the opposition, however, as woman ministers in his government coalition partners of the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party (NCP) also came forward.

Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Anne-Mari Virolainen said that the NCP "does not take pleasure from setbacks to efforts to improve the position of women", and that Soini's position does not reflect that of the government.

Centre Party Minister of Family Affairs and Social Services Annika Saarikko tweeted several angry emjois and wrote that "the more challenging the international conditions for promoting reproductive and sexual health, the tougher and more coherent Finland should be".

Prime Minister weighs in

The news agency STT approached Finland's Prime Minister Juha Sipilä for comment about Soini's blog.

In his email reply, Sipilä said the reproductive rights of women are human rights, and therefore an essential part of Finnish foreign policy. The Prime Minister said that this has been Finland's unequivocal position on the matter for a long time, and it has not changed.

Soini stirred up trouble in this area once before, in May of this year, when he criticised the Irish decision to legalise abortion. It was later revealed that he had taken place in an anti-abortion event while he was on an official visit to Canada for an Arctic Council function. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö reproached him for this action.

Soini was also called to discuss the matter with the leaders of the government's coalition partners, Centre Party chair Sipilä and NCP chair Petteri Orpo. The government then released a statement emphasizing that Soini's views do not represent the official stance of the Finnish government or the country. Soini defended his actions by appealing to his freedom of speech and conscious.

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