Assisted Reproduction in the Nordic Countries

A comparative study of policies and regulation

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After five decades of intermittent attempts, the Nordic countries still have very different policies in the field of assisted reproduction. In the absence of a comprehensive policy design Finland has, by default, the most permissive regimen of ART practices in the Nordic region. Compared to the other Nordic countries, Norway has the strictest ART regulation in place. The ART policy design in Iceland and Denmark places those two countries in the intermediate category. While the policy design in the other Nordic countries has remained relatively constant, Sweden has through several re-designs moved from a rather restrictive policy design to a permissive one. What is the nature of these differences and how did they come about? This report examines the appropriation of assisted reproductive technologies in the Nordic countries at the level of policy-making. It traces the policy designing process in each country from governmental committees or working parties to parliamentary proceedings. It describes formative events and debates. In the end, the report identifies some of the factors that account for the divergence of ART policies among the Nordic countries. There are no simple explanations for the divergence in ART policies across the Nordic countries. By examining the policy design processes, this study has been able to identify a number of factors that have impacted the ART policy content in each Nordic country and thus underlie the diversity of policy designs. These factors have to do with the timing of decision-making, actor beliefs, the arena of policy-making, and a variety of issues connected to the broader context.




It has become somewhat of a national sore point that Finland is the only Nordic state yet to implement legislation concerning assisted reproduction. The lack of legislation does not imply a lack of effort, however. There have been several proposals to introduce legislation since the 1980s. The two decades of legislative effort mark one of the most difficult challenges ever faced by Finnish lawmakers. The sole proposal so far to reach the Finnish Parliament, Eduskunta, resulted in a revolt of sorts that forced the government to withdraw its proposal. In the meantime Finnish infertility doctors have been able to experiment with a wide range of treatments offering the most permissive regime of assisted reproduction in the Nordic region. Single women and lesbian couples have access to assisted reproduction, surrogacy is practiced, and all forms of donor conception are available. Although the absence of legislation is a source of concern for many, it has enabled Finnish infertility doctors to excel in clinical practice. Among other things, they have been the first doctors in the Nordic countries to combine single embryo transfer with an embryo cryo preservation program resulting in the reduction of multiple pregnancy rates to the lowest of the Nordic countries (Hazekamp & Hamberger 2005).


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