Abortion Laws in Finland
|Law, Regulations||Law No. 239, 1970, as amended through 1998; Ordinance No. 359, 1970.|
|Indications||Life, health, fetal impairment, under age of 18 or “special reasons”.|
|Time limit||Life and health (not specified, anytime implied), fetal impairment (24 weeks), under age of 18 or “special reasons” (20 weeks).|
|Location of Services||Approved hospital.|
FINLAND. Law No. 239 of 24
March 1970 on the interruption of pregnancy, as amended through Law No. 572 of 24 July 1998.
1. A pregnancy may be interrupted at the request of the woman and in conformity with the provisions of this Law:
1) if continuation of the pregnancy or delivery of a child would endanger her life or health on account of a disease, physical defect or weakness in the woman;
2) if delivery and care of a child would place a considerable strain on her in view of the living conditions of the woman and her family and other circumstances;
3) if she became pregnant under the circumstances referred to in Section 22 of Chapter
Sections 1-3, 5-6, or 7(3) of Chapter 20 of the Penal Code;
4) if she was less than 17 or more than 40 years of age at the time of conception, or has already had four children;
5) if there are grounds for presuming that the child will be mentally retarded or will have, or will later develop, a serious disease or a serious physical defect;
6) if a disease, mental disturbance or other comparable cause, affecting one or both parents, seriously limits their capacity to care for the child.
2. If the woman is incapable, on account of a mental disease, mental retardation or mental disturbance, of making a valid request for the termination of pregnancy, the operation may be performed, provided there are sound reasons for doing so, with the consent of her guardian or a specially appointed trustee [god man].
3. Where the woman became pregnant under the circumstances referred to in Sections 3, 5(1)(2), 5(1)(4) or 5(1) of Chapter 20 of the Penal Code, an abortion may not be performed unless legal action in respect of the crime has been taken, a complaint has been lodged in respect thereof, or clear evidence of the crime has been obtained by a police inquiry.
If the abortion is performed, under the provisions of item 5 of Section 1, where there are grounds for presuming that the child will be mentally retarded because of mental retardation in the woman, sterilization shall be carried out in conjunction with abortion, unless there are sound reasons to the contrary.
4. Before a pregnancy is terminated in accordance with this Law, the woman requesting the termination must be informed of the significance and effects of the operation.
A woman who has undergone an abortion must be given advice on contraception, in accordance with the detailed provisions to be laid down by way of ordinance.
5. Abortions must be performed at the earliest possible stage of pregnancy.
An abortion may not be performed after the twelfth week of pregnancy on any grounds other than a disease or physical defect in the woman.
If the woman was not yet 17 years of age at the time of conception or there are other special reasons, the National
Board of Health may however authorize abortion at a later stage of pregnancy, although not after the 20th week.
5a. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 5, the National Board of Health may authorize the termination of a pregnancy if, as a result of amniocentesis or an ultrasonic examination, serological tests, or another reliable examination, it is established that the embryo is affected by a serious disease or physical disability, provided that the 24th week of pregnancy has not expired.
6. An abortion may be performed:
1) in the cases referred to in items 1-3 and 6 of Section 1, on the recommendation of two physicians or, in the cases to be defined in detail by way or ordinance, by authorization of the State Medical Board;
2) in the case referred to in item 4 of Section 1, by decision of the physician who performs the operation;
3) in the cases referred to in item 5 of Section 1 and the third paragraph of Section 5, by authorization of the National Board of Health.
The recommendation by two physicians shall contain the separate written opinions of each physician, with their grounds being stated in detail. Of the two physicians, one shall be a physician who renders opinions on the termination of pregnancy (physician with authority to render an opinion) while the other shall be the physician who performs the operation (operating physician). The physician with authority to render an opinion and the operating physician shall not be entitled, without reason, to refuse to consider a request for termination of pregnancy.
If the decision of the two physicians or, in the case referred to in item 4 of Section 1, of the physician, is negative, an application for authorization of abortion may be made to the National Board of Health.
7. Before the decision on termination of pregnancy is taken, the father of the expected child, the woman’s guardian and, if the woman is an inmate of a public institution, the physician or director of the latter, shall be given an opportunity of stating their opinion, if this seems justified in the particular case.
Before a decision based on item 2 of Section 1 is taken, a report on the living conditions or other circumstances of the woman and her family shall, if this seems justified in the particular case, be requested from the social welfare authorities or from a midwife, public health nurse or person of corresponding status.
Where the woman has received special treatment for a serious disease, the physician with authority to render an opinion shall, before the decision is taken, seek information, as far as possible, on the woman’s state of health from the physician who treated her for the particular disease.
8. Any licensed physician employed by the State, a commune or association of communes, as well as any other licensed physician designated by the National Board of Health, may act as a physician with authority to render opinions.
The termination of pregnancy shall be carried out in a hospital which has been approved for the purpose by the National Board of Health such hospitals being designated as abortion hospitals). Any licensed physician employed in the hospital may act as an operating physician.
9. If a pregnancy is to be terminated under item 1 of Section 1, and the examination of the indications for the operation in accordance with Section 6 of the performance of the operation in a hospital as referred to in the second paragraph of Section 8 are not possible without seriously endangering the woman’s life or health on account of the delay involved or other reasons, the pregnancy may be terminated by a licensed physician without conforming to these particular provisions.
10. Those matters which, in accordance with Section 1, 5, 5a, and 6 of this Law, are within the jurisdiction of the National Board of Health shall be dealt with by the Office for abortions and sterilizations according to measures observed in detail through the provisions of an Ordinance.
The National Board of Health shall deal with matters referred to in the first paragraph above on a priority basis.
The National Board of Health’s decisions on such matters shall not be subject to appeal.
11. The National Board of Health shall take measures to ensure that physicians with authority to render opinions and operating physicians make every effort to adopt an impartial and consistent approach.
12. Whoever participates in handling matters under this Law or officially or otherwise through the performance of duties receives knowledge thereof may not reveal what he has learned to outside persons.
Violations of confidentiality regulated in paragraph 1 shall be punished in accordance with Section 1 or 2 of Chapter 38 of the Penal Code.
13. Any person who, without observing the provisions of this Law, performs or attempts to perform an abortion which would otherwise be lawful, shall be liable to a fine or up to one year’s imprisonment.
14. Any person who makes a false statement to an authority or physician on a matter concerning the termination of pregnancy that has legal consequences, shall be liable to a fine in so far as the act is not punishable under Section 8 of Chapter 16 of the Penal Code.
15. Detailed provisions for the implementation of this Law shall be promulgated by way of an ordinance.
FINLAND. Ordinance No. 359 of 29 May 1970 on the interruption of pregnancy.
1. Authorization for the interruption of pregnancy shall be applied for, whether to a physician or the State Medical Board, by the woman herself, unless she is incapable, because of mental disease, mental retardation or mental disturbance, of making a valid application for the operation.
2. If the woman is incapable, for one of the reasons indicated in Section 1, of making a valid request for an abortion, the authorization may be applied for by:
1) a specially appointed trustee and, in the case of a person under guardianship, the guardian; and
2) if the woman is an inmate of a public institution, the director of the latter.
3. An application for authorization submitted to the State Medical Board must be personally signed by the applicant, the applicant’s signature being vouched for by two impartial persons.
The application shall be accompanied by:
1) an official certificate issued by the competent registry office, indicating the woman’s marital status and the name and date of birth of her husband, children and, if she is a minor, her parents;
2) a report concerning the father, if item 5 of Section 1 of Law No. 239 of 24 March 1970 is cited as the grounds for the interruption of pregnancy, and there are reasons for presuming that the child will be mentally retarded or affected by a serious disease or a serious physician defect because of a corresponding condition in the father;
3) an opinion based on an examination by an impartial physician or, in the case referred to in the third paragraph of
Section 6 of the Law on the interruption of pregnancy, the opinions and decision previously issued by the physicians rendering a negative decision; and
4) a report on other circumstances which may affect the case.
The prescribed forms must be used for the medical opinions and applications.
4. If the application is not accompanied by a report as referred to in Section 3, the State Medical Board shall if necessary order the applicant to submit it within a fixed period of time.
If the application is not accompanied by a written statement from those persons who, under Section 7 of the Law, must be given an opportunity to express their opinion, the State Medical Board must, if this is justified in the particular case, afford them the possibility of expressing their opinion on the matter.
5. If the State Medical Board observes, from the reports submitted to it annually, that there are insufficient physicians with authority to render opinions, or insufficient abortion hospitals, in some parts of the country, on account of long distances, a shortage of physicians or hospitals, or other reasons of this nature, it shall order that the submission of applications for authorization of abortion emanating from these areas may, until further notice, be made directly to the Board.
The State Medical Board shall be responsible for informing county, municipal, urban district and communal medical officers and, through their intermediary, the communal maternal and child health advisory bureaux and the marriage and social guidance centres controlled by the Finnish Population and Family Welfare League [Vaestollitto r.y.], in respect to approved abortion hospitals and areas designated by the Board under the first paragraph of this Section. Notice shall also be sent of the physicians who, under the first paragraph of Section 8 of the Law on the interruption of pregnancy, have been specially designated by the State Medical Board as being entitled to act as physicians with authority to render opinions, as well as of physicians whom the State Medical Board has disqualified from so doing.
6. The recommendation referred to in item 1 of the first paragraph of Section 6 and the decision referred to in item 2 of the same paragraph must be drawn up on the prescribed forms.
In a case covered by the first paragraph of Section 3 of the Law, the applicant must submit a certificate issued by the competent prosecutor or police authority conforming that legal action has been taken in respect of the crime or that it has been the subject of a complaint, or a written certificate providing clear evidence of the crime, issued by the police authority and based on a police inquiry.
7. It shall be the responsibility of the physician with authority to render an opinion to provide the information referred to in the first paragraph of Section 4 of the Law to any woman requesting an abortion.
Every woman who has had her pregnancy terminated must, before being discharged from hospital, be given advice on contraception by a hospital physician.
8. The State Medical Board shall issue, for the benefit of physicians with authority to render opinions and operating physicians, instructions and directives concerning the implementation of those provisions of the Law and this Ordinance which may give rise to difficulties of interpretation. The State Medical Board shall, in particular, provide guidelines to the above physicians with a view to the adoption of uniform practices in the interpretation of the indications for abortion.
9. Operating physicians must notify the State Medical Board of any abortions performed, within one month after the operation.
All documents concerning the case shall be carefully preserved in the hospital archives, under the responsibility of the physician in charge of the hospital. If the abortion has been performed under the circumstances referred to in Section 9 of the Law, all documents relating to the case shall be sent to the State Medical Board at the same time as the aforesaid notification.
10. [Supervisory and disciplinary power of the State Medical Board in respect to physicians and hospitals]
11. [Official forms]
12. The State Medical Board shall direct and supervise educational activities relating to the guidance of the public on birth control as a preventive measure against abortion and, in particular, as a measure aimed at reducing the illegal abortion rate; it must ensure, in particular, that citizens are given information, either through publications or other media, on the prevention of pregnancy.
Ordinance shall enter into force on 1 June 1970.