A baby doll in a kidney dish.Over 18,000 Finns have expressed their support for a citizens' initiative calling for a right to health care professionals to refuse to participate in performing abortions on grounds of personal or religious convictions.

The initiative will be presented to the Parliament for discussion if it accumulates a minimum of 50,000 statements of support. An earlier bill on abortion only received marginal support beyond the ranks of the Christian Democrats. 

The sponsor of the citizens' initiative, gynaecologist Sari Tanus, argues that the situation has placed a strain on the mental well-being of many health care professionals. “This is a major flaw and obviously constitutes discrimination in the workplace,” she states.

Finland, she demands, must finally follow in the footsteps of other Europe. In addition to Finland, four other European countries – Sweden, Iceland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic – do not allow health care professionals to refuse to participate in performing abortions on conscientious grounds.

The Council of Europe ruled four years ago that all member states of the European Union must guarantee the freedom of conscience to refuse to take part in performing abortions. 

Thus far, no disputes have arisen in Finnish hospitals due to the issue. Some hospitals have resorted to re-organising the responsibilities of their personnel to ensure that no one has to participate in a practice contrary to their conscience. 

“On the other hand, there are several cases where the temporary contract of a midwife has not been renewed. Some have sought further training voluntarily while others have decided against joining the sector, despite their desire to work there,” Tanus highlights.

The Finnish Medical Association has reminded that it is unfair to leave tasks for others to perform.

“You have to bear in mind that there would be no right to refuse if the life of the woman is at risk,” stresses Tanus.

Marjo Valtavaara – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva