Opinions on conscientious objection to induced abortion among Finnish medical and nursing students and professionals

Petteri Nieminen, Saara Lappalainen, Pauliina Ristimäki, Markku Myllykangas, Anne-Mari Mustonen

Abstract: Conscientious objection (CO) to participating in induced abortion is not present in the Finnish health care system or legislation unlike in many other European countries.

Methods: We conducted a questionnaire survey with the 1st- and the last-year medical and nursing students and professionals (548 respondents; response rate 66-100%) including several aspects of the abortion process and their relation to CO in 2013.

Results: The male medical respondents chose later time points of pregnancy than the nursing respondents when considering when the embryo/fetus ‘becomes a person’. Of all respondents, 3.5-14.1% expressed a personal wish to CO.

The medical professionals supported the right to CO more often (34.2%) than the nursing professionals (21.4%), while ≥62.4% could work with someone expressing CO. Yet ≥57.9% of the respondents anticipated social problems at work communities caused by CO.

Most respondents considered self-reported religious/ethical conviction to be adequate for CO but, at the same time, 30.1-50.7% considered that no conviction would be sufficient. The respondents most commonly included the medical doctor conducting surgical or medical abortion to be eligible to CO.

The nursing respondents considered that vacuum suction would be a better justification for CO than medical abortion. The indications most commonly included to potential CO were second-trimester abortions and social reasons.

Among the medical respondents, the men were more willing to grant CO also in case of a life-threatening emergency of the pregnant woman.

Conclusions: While the respondents mostly seemed to consider the continuation of adequate services important if CO is introduced, the viewpoint was often focused on the staff and surgical abortion procedure instead of the patients. The issue proved to be complex, which should be taken into consideration for legislation.


Nieminen P, Lappalainen S, Ristimäki P, Myllykangas M, Mustonen A-M. Opinions on conscientious objection to induced abortion among Finnish medical and nursing students and professionals. BMC Medical Ethics 2015, 16:17  doi:10.1186/s12910-015-0012-1

Citizens’ initiative calls for right to conscientious objection in health care

Helsinki Times

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. . . . [Full Text]