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THL: Finland has Nordic region's lowest abortion rate

Fewer abortions are performed in Finland per capita than in other Nordic countries, according to preliminary figures from the National Institute for Health and Welfare used in a recent study at the University of Oulu.

Nainen makaa potilasvuoteella sairaalassa.
Lapland has the highest rate of abortions in Finland. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

National Institute for Health and Welfare, THL, reports that abortions among those under 20 years of age have declined steeply in recent years, and are now at half the level of the early 2000s. The agency's senior planning officer Anna Heino says there are many reasons for the downturn.

"Municipalities have invested in bringing the number down, health information classes have been obligatory in school since the early 2000s and the internet is full of accurate information on reproductive health and contraception," Heino says.

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Abortions per age group per 1000 women os fame age
Decline of abortions among under 20-year-olds in Finland. Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Study: First abortion generally safe

THL statistics show that in 2015, up to 96 percent of pregnancy terminations were chemically induced.

A new doctoral study from Oulu University finds that a first-time chemical abortion as safe as surgical abortion, and that the first procedure does not endanger further pregnancies or the health of future embryos.

"Now we can safely reassure women who have undergone one abortion that there is no need to worry," says the author of the study, licentiate of medicine Jaana Männistö.

Little research in the subject has been conducted in Finland. Männistö says that sufficient research statistics have been hard to come by, as the chemical method was only introduced in 2000.

"A similar study was made in Denmark that supports the findings," Männistö says.

THL's Heino says that while no abortion is entirely risk-free, terminations in Finland are generally considered safe.

Regional differences

The preliminary statistics, to be expanded by additional study in November, show regional differences in the amount of abortions performed, which Heino says are often significant.

Per capita, the most pregnancies in 2016 were terminated in the Åland islands, the Länsi-Pohja Hospital District around Kemi and Tornio in Northern Finland and in Finnish Lapland.

The smallest figures were found in Eastern and Southern Savo.

"Åland tends to be high in the statistics when using this calculation, but the actual number of procedures performed there is extremely small," says Heino.

She says that no one knows just why so many abortions are performed in Lapland.

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Abortions in Nordic countries per 1000 women aged 15-49
Finland ranks last in Nordic abortion statistics. Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

International differences

Finland's last-place ranking among the Nordics is based on THL figures from 2015.

Sweden has the highest abortion rate among the Nordic states.

"Legislation is certainly one aspect, as laws on abortions are strict in Finland," Heino says.

A single doctor can order a termination before the 12th week of pregnancy, if the woman is under 17 or over 40 years old, or if she has given birth to at least four children before.

Two doctors are needed for terminations under 12 weeks in, if childbirth and/or caring for an infant would be a significant strain on the woman, if conception occurred in relation to a crime or if the mother's or father's possible illness severely restricts their ability to care for a child.

"Social reasons are most often cited, and they are broadly interpreted in Finland," Heino says.

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