Following a public outcry, police on Thursday released a woman who had been placed in custody after she had an abortion.
The doctor who performed the procedure, who was also remanded in custody for five days together with the woman, was expected to be released later on Thursday.
Police got involved when the woman’s partner, who didn’t know she was going ahead with the operation, caused a disturbance at the clinic after he found out. He later damaged property belonging to his family and his partner’s before reporting the case to the authorities.
Police were told that the woman, who was eight-weeks pregnant, had been accompanied to the clinic by her partner’s mother.
During her arrest on Monday evening, the woman told police she didn’t know it was an offence and she was sorry.
The woman, who already had 19-month-old child, told police she had found out about the pregnancy a month earlier. She had discussed the possibility of terminating her pregnancy because they could not afford to raise a second child, as both of them are unemployed.
The arrests sparked outrage and a debate on the issue of abortions, which are illegal in Cyprus though carried out freely in private clinics.
An amendment to the law has been languishing in parliament for almost three years because the powerful church of Cyprus opposed it.
Although submitted in early 2015, the amendment has never even been discussed.
The church believes human life is created at the moment of conception and abortion thereafter was murder.
In a circular on the matter issued on March 20, the Holy Synod said “abortion does not concern the woman and her body, nor the wife and her husband. The foetus is a distinct individual in the eyes of God. And is God who has power over it and no one else.”
The circular urged the state services that prepared the bill “without the necessary religious and national sensitivity, and without the necessary respect to the morals of our people” to reflect on their responsibilities towards God and the country and reassess their act.
“Even more, we urge MPs to avoid approving a law that ignores basic principles of our faith and degrades human life.”
According to current legislation, abortions are illegal unless there is risk to life of the pregnant woman, or the pregnancy would cause physical, mental, or psychological damage to the woman or any existing child she may have that is greater than if the pregnancy was to be terminated. Exceptions are also made for circumstances under which continuing the pregnancy would seriously jeopardise the social status of the pregnant woman or that of her family, the child would have serious physical or psychological abnormalities, and rape or other sexual crime.
The procedure also needs the opinion of two qualified medical practitioners.
There is no gestational limit specified in the law.
The proposed amendment allows a woman to abort a pregnancy before completion of the third month of gestation.
Time limits are placed in all other cases – including rape and serious disability – and new cases are being added such as multiple pregnancy and the risk to the viability of other foetuses.