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.




Norway has been characterized as “an early legislator and a strict regulator” (Bleiklie 2004, 209) in the domain of assisted reproduction. The Norwegian Act on Artificial Fertilization (68/1987) was the first Nordic law to cover the entire field of assisted reproduction. Its enactment took place in the midst of a political struggle over abortion. The 1987 Act came to articulate a variety of concerns with ART ranging from the need for the protection of unborn human life to the avoidance of risk to health. These concerns have continued to dominate Norwegian ART policies through a number of legislative actions over the years. Each of the three separate Acts passed so far has started with a preamble laying down the ethical foundation for the subsequent restrictions. The most recent piece of legislation, the Act on the Medical Use of Biotechnology (100/2003), opens with the following statement: “The purpose of this Act is to ensure that medical applications of biotechnology are utilized for the benefit of everyone in an inclusive society. This shall be done in accordance with the principles of respect for human dignity, human rights and personal integrity and without discrimination on the basis of genetic constitution, on the basis of the ethical norms that form part of our Western cultural heritage.”


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