Sterilization in Finland:
from eugenics to contraception

Hemminki E, Rasimus A, Forssas E.
National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health,
Health Services Research Unit, Helsinki, Finland.
Soc Sci Med. 1997 Dec;45(12):1875-84.


The purpose of this paper was to describe the transition of sterilization in Finland from an eugenic tool to a contraceptive. Historical data were drawn from earlier reports in Finnish. Numbers of and reasons for sterilizations since 1950 were collected from nationwide sterilization statistics. Prevalence, characteristics of sterilized women, and women's satisfaction with sterilizations were studied from a 1994 nationwide survey (74% response rate). Logistic regression was used for adjustments. In the first half of the 20th century, eugenic ideology had influence in Finland as in other parts of Europe, and the 1935 and 1950 sterilization laws had an eugenic spirit. Regardless of this, the numbers of eugenic sterilizations remained low, and in practice, family planning was the main reason for sterilization. Nonetheless, prior to 1970 not all sterilizations were freely chosen, because sterilizations were sometimes used as a precondition for abortion. Female sterilizations showed remarkable fluctuation over time. Male sterilizations have been rare. The reasons stipulated by the law did not explain the numbers of sterilizations. In a 1994 survey, 9% of Finnish women reported they were using sterilization as their current contraceptive method (n = 189). Compared to women using other contraceptive methods, sterilized women were older, had had more births and pregnancies, and came from lower social classes. Sterilized women were satisfied with their sterilization, but there were women (8.5%) who regretted it. In conclusion, sterilizations have been and are likely to continue to be an important family planning method in Finland. The extreme gender ratio suggests a need for promoting male sterilizations, and women's expressed regrets suggest consideration of a higher age limit.
Swiss eugenics
Liberal Eugenics
Human self-domestication
Germline genetic engineering
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis
A life without pain? Hedonists take note'
Francis Galton and contemporary eugenics
Gene therapy and performance enhancement
The origin of the principle of informed consent

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The Good Drug Guide
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
The Reproductive Revolution
MDMA: Utopian Pharmacology
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World