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Same-sex parents call for equality in fertility treatments

Finland's birth rate has been dropping for nearly a decade, but donor-based fertilisation treatments are not handled by its public health care system.

Nina and Milja Boström.
Nina and Milja Boström. Image: Yle

Is Finland's policy on fertility treatment discriminatory? Same-sex couples and single women currently have no access to public fertility treatment, and have to go private instead.

Nina and Milja Boström are the parents of three children. But like for some other couples and single mothers, the donor-based in-vitro fertilisation procedure they used was not handled by the public health care system.

Finnish public hospitals do not carry out fertility treatments involving donated sperm. Such restrictions also carry over to single women and heterosexual couples.

"It's pretty sad. First, it excludes single women and same-sex couples. But there are also hetero-couples that cannot use their own cells," Nina said.

"The system is not fair," Milja added.

"If you have money you can go to a private health centre. But if you don't have money [for the procedure] you may not be able to have kids at all," Nina said.

Surrogate pregnancies banned

The restrictions also affect women who are unable to have children for medical reasons. Surrogate pregnancies are illegal in Finland, a situation which has caused some affected couples and women to leave the country at least temporarily in order to start families.

Last year there were just over 47-thousand births recorded in Finland, the eighth consecutive year in which the country's birth rate fell. Some experts have also said that Finland's dwindling birth rate will dent state coffers by billions of euros and hurt the country's economic growth.

However, earlier this year Helsinki Administrative Court ruled that a senior physician’s directive to provide fertility treatments only to heterosexual couples discriminates against same-sex female couples.

Family decisions

The Boströms children - five-year-old twins and an infant - are biological siblings. The couple used sperm from the same donor in both pregnancies, and said that it felt right that their children would be actual siblings.

The twins, who just turned five, already know about their biological origins.

"They got to know quite early on that they don't have a father, but rather a donor who gave his 'baby seeds.' We told them that we don't know and cannot contact him. He was just nice and wanted to help people who can't have children on their own," Nina explained.

The couple's decision to undergo the artificial insemination procedure was an easy one, she said.

"We didn't even have to discuss the matter, it was completely natural for us that we wanted to have children at some point," Nina said.

"It's never nice to go through the procedure. But since our desire to have kids was so huge it was never an obstacle," she added.

There have been major advances in the field of fertility treatments in recent years, but the Boströms said they feel more could be done on a societal level.

"Of course I would hope that everyone who wants to have children would be handled in the same way. Then there are some people who are still unable to have children because research hasn't gotten there yet. I hope that no one would be forced to be childless because of physiological reasons," Nina said.

"And I hope that different types of families would become more normalised," Milja added.

"Those who are still out in the cold are male couples. They often have the same longing for children as others. But for now there is no chance for them to have children together," Nina said.

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