DISY MP Rikkos Mappourides walked out of the House Legal Affairs committee in protest on Wednesday after its chairman, his party colleague Sotiris Sampson, refused to schedule the discussion of the bill on abortions.
The bill aims to give women the right to terminate pregnancy at under 12 weeks without having to give explanations, or without a medical condition that would prevent them carrying to term.
In an announcement, Mappourides said he had asked Sampson in writing on Tuesday, to schedule the issue for discussion at the committee, of which he too is a member.
However, Sampson rejected his request without putting the motion to the vote.
Mappourides said in the announcement he was prompted to ask for a discussion date following last week’s announcement of the Church of Cyprus, which slammed MPs who proposed it.
“The chairman of the committee rejected my request without putting it to the vote by saying that […] he personally assumes responsibility for the issue not being tabled for discussion. Given the stance of the chairman of the committee, I was forced to leave today’s meeting,” Mappourides said.
Mappourides told the Cyprus Mail he was forced to leave as Sampson “arbitrarily” chose not to ask the rest of the committee members whether they agreed to schedule the discussion.
Sampson said he did not wish to comment.
The Church of Cyprus said in a circular on Sunday, read out in sermons across the island, that it would actively oppose attempts by the House to allow abortion under certain conditions.
It said it considered abortion to be murder and called on the departments which “prepared the bill without the required religious and ethnic sensitivity and without due regard to the traditions of our people,” to assume their responsibilities.
It also called on MPs to avoid passing a law that “trivialises human life”.
The Church would not rule out taking legal measures to protect both children and their mothers, the circular said.
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.
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 render it severely handicapped.”
The new 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.
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.
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.