The bill on the decriminalisation of abortions does not aim at facilitating terminations but at giving women the right to choose and access to safe medical procedures, the head of the House human rights committee, Stella Kyriakides, said on Monday.
MPs, who were meeting to discuss the bill proposal which aims to give women the right to terminate a pregnancy under 12 weeks, stressed the importance of decriminalising the procedure, despite church opposition. Decriminalising abortions, they said, would also help reduce unwanted pregnancies as proper data would help introduce policies to properly educate youth in birth control.
With abortions currently illegal in Cyprus, there is a lack of official statistics on the frequency of terminations which hinder efforts to promote national policies, MPs heard.
“There are no statistics on the number of abortions taking place in Cyprus. We all know they are taking place, especially among girls, but as we don’t have data, this creates great problems as we cannot schedule practices on sexual education, and prevention so we can protect girls and women,” Kyriakides said.
The aim of the bill, she said, is not to facilitate abortions, but to finally decriminalise them so that women have the right to choose. She added that strict preconditions and proper advice would be introduced.
The other aim, she said, is to facilitate proper programming so that sex education is introduced in schools to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
Under the proposal termination would be allowed under 12 weeks of gestation, if the pregnancy is the result of rape, sexual abuse of a minor or sexual abuse of a woman with reduced mental capacity and incest. It will also be allowed at under 19 weeks if prenatal diagnosis indicates severe abnormality of the foetus and if there is an inherent risk to the pregnant woman’s life or the risk of serious and permanent harm to her physical or mental health. Also, in cases of multiple pregnancy where the gestation of a number of embryos must be terminated.
The Holy Synod reportedly sent a letter to the committee objecting to any changes.
In the memo, according to daily Politis, the Holy Synod made a plea to the MPs’ Christian consciousness to ‘respect the opinion of the church and the beliefs of our people’.
The church said that for them, pregnancy does not concern only women and their bodies, but also fathers and God.
“If one has authority over the foetus it is neither mother nor father, but God,” it said in the letter.
It also proposed ways of dealing with cases of rape.
If in the first 24 hours rape victims seek medical help, it said, “fertility can be prevented and the tragedy of abortion can be avoided”.
If the woman fails to prevent this, it said, in cases of rape, the church can host pregnant women “in a safe place, away from publicity” and after giving birth, she can either go home with her baby or the church can arrange for it to be given for adoption.
Solidarity Movement MP, Michalis Giorgallas, said that while the church’s opinion should be respected it is also true that thousands of abortions are taking place each year without any control and in many cases outside the medical protocol.
Akel MP Skevi Koukouma said that abortion was an issue that concerns the state which ought to promote laws based on the needs of society and human rights.
At the moment, she said, many women buy harmful medicines and other concoctions to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
The bill is expected to be tabled to the House plenum near Easter.