By Evie Andreou
A bill aiming to legalise abortions has been prepared and is to come under discussion at House committee level.
The proposal aims to give women the right to terminate pregnancy at under 12 weeks without having to give explanations, or without having to present a medical condition that would prevent them carrying to term.
House legal affairs committee deputy, DISY’s Rikkos Mappourides said it was not certain yet whether the bill would come under the legal affairs or health committees but it was, he said, “a step to the right direction”.
According to current legislation, abortions are legal only when a pregnancy was caused by rape – an initial provision that goes back to the aftermath of the 1974 Turkish invasion – and currently if the demand for the abortion is accompanied by police verification and a medical verification where possible. The procedure can be carried out up to 19 weeks in this sn instances.
Abortion is also legal if the pregnancy is deemed threatening to the life of the mother or could cause greater “physical or mental damage” to her or her other children had the pregnancy not been terminated.
A woman is also allowed to terminate her pregnancy in the case of “substantial risk that the foetus could suffer from physical or mental anomalies that would constitute it severely handicapped,” current legislation provides.
“On the basis of this provision, women are obliged to invoke one of the above reasons to be approved for abortion; meaning, something that should be the inalienable right of women to decide, is not taken into account by the legislation,” the proposal said.
The proposal also provides that state hospitals should offer abortions since high costs – between €400 and €800 – prompt women to resort to other solutions, like pharmaceutical concoctions that may harm their health.
In July 2013, the state pharmaceutical services confiscated hundreds of prescription drugs ordered over the internet during a search in post offices and among them drugs used for abortion which could cause death to the mother.
The current law provides for up to 14 years imprisonment to doctors who perform abortions and seven years for women who terminate outside of the existing legal provisions, though it is an open secret that abortions are carried out despite the law.
According to the new proposal, a pregnancy could be terminated at under 12 weeks if requested.
“If according to the opinions of two doctors, the baby would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped, abortion will be legal up to 24 weeks,” the proposal said.
In cases concerning minors, consent from one parent or legal guardian will be required.
According to Dr Arne Bjornberg, the president of the Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP), which produces the Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI) annually, abortion ban in Cyprus “is bad both for human rights and for women’s health”.
In December the European Parliament plenary, called to vote a proposal that recognised the right of every woman to decide freely on abortions, voted for an amendment which provides that abortion regulation is subject to national legislation.