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.




The Swedish Insemination Act, which entered into force in 1985, was the first of its kind in the world. A provision in the Act giving the donor-conceived child a right to obtain identifying information on the donor has been heralded as revolutionary and unique. The Swedish experience has been watched closely around the world with an increasing number of countries developing their legislation modeled on the Swedish law. Despite all the outside interest, the Insemination Act was received, originally at least, with a fare amount of skepticism by the Swedish medical community. The abolishment of donor anonymity was at the center of their criticism. Even before the introduction of the 1985 Act, as the Insemination Committee was working on its proposal, doctors predicted an imminent and irreversible decline in the number of sperm donations. A significant decline did indeed take place after the Insemination Act was passed. Moreover, it appears that a shortage of donors continues to plague the provision of donor insemination in Sweden.


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