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Article Estonia: Access to Abortions Simplified for Minors

(July 28, 2015) On February 12, 2015, the President of Estonia signed into law amendments to the Act on Termination of Pregnancy and on Sterilization, which entered into force on March 2, 2015. (Act on the Termination of Pregnancy and on Sterilization (as amended on Jan. 29, 2015), RIIGI TEATAJA [Estonia’s official gazette] I, 11/2015, RIIGI TEATAJA website (in Estonian).) The amendments remove some restrictions on abortions for minors that had been added to the original version of the 1998 Act in 2009. (Act on Amending the Code of Civil Procedure and Related Acts, RIIGI TEATAJA I, 59/2008 , RIIGI TEATAJA website (in Estonian).) Formerly, the Act required a minor to have parental or legal guardian consent to undergo an abortion; in the case of a dispute, it was necessary for the minor to obtain permission from the court for the operation. (Id. art. 37.)

The amended Act defines abortion as the removal of an embryo or fetus from a woman’s body by means of surgery or the ingestion of medications. (Act on the Termination of Pregnancy and on Sterilization, art. 2.) The requirement to have parental consent in cases when an abortion is performed on a minor was removed from the revised version of the Act, which makes the ability of the prospective patient to “understand the arguments for and against the procedure” the only requirement that needs to be met for the legality of the procedure. (Id. art. 12.) As a rule, an abortion may be performed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy; however, it can be performed through the 22nd week of pregnancy if the female is younger than 15 years of age. (Id. art. 6.) Later-term abortions can be performed when it is known that the child will be born with a serious disability, if the woman’s health does not allow her to raise the child, or when a woman is older than 45 years of age. (Id.)

A woman regardless of her age must submit a written request for a pregnancy termination procedure to the hospital administration where the procedure will be conducted participation in an information session is also required and the counseling information provided will be documented. The Act requires health workers to explain to the patient the nature of pregnancy termination and the risks involved and to inform her about the availability of additional counseling before or after the abortion. (Id. art. 11.)

Under the newly amended law, an abortion can be performed by an obstetrician only in a medical facility licensed to perform gynecological treatments. (Id. art. 7.) The Ministry of Social Affairs is authorized to control implementation of the Act. (Id. art. 18.) The Act also now prescribes that information on abortions is to be collected and processed by the Ministry of Social Affairs for the purposes of conducting family planning policies and ensuring quality control over pregnancy termination procedures. (Id. art. 16.)

The amended Act provides that sterilization may not be performed on minors. (Id. art. 19.) The Act newly establishes a set of rules for sterilization procedures, namely:

  • submission of a personal written request by the person willing to undergo the procedure (the request of a legal guardian is required in cases of the prospective patient’s legal incapacity);
  • performance of the sterilization procedure no earlier than one month after counseling has been conducted; and
  • conformity with at least one of the following conditions:

– the person requesting sterilization has at least three children,
– the person is older than 35 years of age,
– no other contraception methods can be effectively applied,
– a health-related issue prevents the person from bringing up the child, or
– there is the danger of the child being born with a severe mental or physical disability. (Id. art. 24.)

The amendments to the Act were proposed by the Chancellor of Justice, who stated that the Act’s previous provisions were unconstitutional because they limited the right to privacy of and self-determination by women under the age of 18. (Estonian Parlt Repeals Unconstitutional Restriction of Minor’s Right to Abortion, POSTIMEES (Jan. 29, 2015).)

Written with the assistance of Nerses Isajanyan, Foreign Law Consultant.

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Roudik, Peter. Estonia: Access to Abortions Simplified for Minors. 2015. Web Page.

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Roudik, P. (2015) Estonia: Access to Abortions Simplified for Minors. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

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Roudik, Peter. Estonia: Access to Abortions Simplified for Minors. 2015. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.