Pro-Life Politics, Finnish Style

HELSINKI, Finland, SEPT. 6, 2001 ( A councilor in an Arctic town has challenged residents to produce more babies to boost its dwindling population, promising to step down if they reach a target quota, Reuters reported.

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Teuvo Niemela, chairman of the town council of Inari in Finnish Lapland, vowed not to run for re-election in 2004 if at least 80 babies are born next year and at least 85 the year after. The town had a population of 7,366 last year.

«This is a challenge at least to those who want to get rid of me,´´ said Niemela, an ear, nose and throat doctor who has two adult daughters.

The birthrate has been falling in Inari, where temperatures can drop below minus 45 C (minus 49 F) in winter.

Finland´s birthrate was estimated last year at 1.7 children per woman — below replacement level, like much of Europe.

Last year only 69 babies were born in Inari, down from more than 100 in 1995, and 75 babies are expected this year, Niemela said.

Niemela has in the past dug into his own pockets to encourage Inari mothers. He paid 20,000 markka ($3,000) to the mother of the first baby born in the town last year.

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