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.




Iceland presents us with the least complicated case of ART policies among the Nordic countries. The Act on Artificial Fertilization (55/1996) was enacted in 1996 after relatively uneventful proceedings in Iceland’s parliament, Alþingi. There has not been a single amendment to the Act during the almost decade it has been in force. Nor do the officials at the Ministry of Health and Social Security expect any changes in the near future. However, since the Act on Artificial Fertilization bans research on embryos, current developments in embryonic stem cell research have brought along pressures for change. Guðmundur Arason and Þorður Óskarsson, two infertility doctors in charge of the entire field of ART in Iceland, have by all accounts been tremendously successful in their clinical work. Their work has helped to create a positive atmosphere around ART in the country. This aura of acceptance may now be facing its first challenge with the opening of a private clinic by Arason and Óskarsson in November 2004. Critics of privatization have questioned the wisdom of removing infertility treatment from the auspices of the Landspítali, the University Hospital in Reykjavik. Among other things, the critics fear that privatization of infertility care will have a detrimental impact on teaching and research in the field.


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