The unequal abortion patterns in Finland

It’s been a while since my last post. A lot has happened in the last half-a-year-or-so. I became a lecturer at the University of Southampton in October, submitted my thesis to LSE in February and a couple of papers came out one of which was featured in Helsingin Sanomat (the biggest newspaper in Finland; see here in Finnish).

These last two papers that I published out of my thesis were about the association between labour market position (being employed, unemployed, student or inactive in the labour market) and the likelihood of abortion; and about the educational gradient in the likelihood of having more than one abortion. The former came out in the Finnish Yearbook of Population Research and the latter in Journal of Biosocial Science.

Both papers show that women’s socioeconomic position is associated with the likelihood of having an abortion and this has been the case since the 1970s until nowadays. Women who were unemployed were more likely to have an abortion than employed women in particular if they were not married or cohabiting. This indicates that women are concerned about the economic wellbeing of their family in an uncertain situation. During the recession of the 1990s the likelihood of abortion was higher among those who already had children and who were employed than it was before or after the recession. This implies that women may have been concerned about their position in the workplace in case they became pregnant. Given the economic situation we are facing today, it is something to consider.

When it comes to the likelihood of having more than one abortion during one’s reproductive life course, the likelihood is higher among those who have low levels of education, and the gap between the highly educated and those with no more than compulsory education has increased over time. Not many highly educated women had more than one abortion and the time since the first abortion, their relationship status or number of children they had were not associated with the likelihood. Women who had completed only compulsory education, however, had their second and third abortions sooner after the previous procedure than highly educated women and their other characteristics altered the likelihood as well. It may be that women with high education benefit more from post-abortion contraceptive counselling than women with low education.

Taken together, both of these studies show that abortion access in Finland depends on women’s standing in the society regardless of family planning provision in all municipalities since the 1970s and sexuality education in all schools. Although these are important policies and should be continued, there is a need to evaluate whether something could be done to better reach those in more precarious situations in the society.

Sources:

Väisänen, Heini (2016). “Educational inequalities in repeat abortion: A longitudinal register study in Finland 1975-2010.” Journal of Biosocial Science, doi:10.1017/S002193201600016X.

Väisänen, Heini (2015). “Labour Force Participation and the Likelihood of Abortion in Finland over Three Birth Cohorts.” Finnish Yearbook of Population Research, 50: 5-20.

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