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Our View: Abortion law reform is long overdue

The law now allows termination up to twelve weeks of gestation

IT WAS about time the political parties decided to push ahead with the decriminalisation of abortions. The bill amending the criminal code had been gathering dust at the House human rights committee for almost three years. The parties were allegedly reluctant to look at it because of pressure from the church, which objects to legalising terminations.

Deputies from all the parties participated in the drafting of the bill, said the chairperson of the committee, Disy deputy, Stella Kyriakides. Such a show of parliamentary unity was presumably necessary to counter the church’s opposition, all parties taking responsibility for the bill. The church hierarchy’s case is weakened when the legislature presents a united front.

It was understandable that the Holy Synod sent a four-page memo to the committee listing the reasons for its objections to decriminalisation. The church could never be in favour of abortions for obvious reasons, but the Republic in theory is a secular state and cannot seek church approval for the legislation.

Things had come to a head last October after a doctor and his patient, on whom he carried out an illegal termination, were arrested. Police acted after the case was reported by the woman’s partner. This was the first time there had been an arrest in connection with a termination for decades, and it caused great surprise as many were under the impression that terminations, so routinely carried out at private clinics, were not illegal.

The fact that abortion was a crime had never stopped doctors from performing them. Perhaps at state hospitals, there had to be medical justification, but doctors in private clinics had no qualms about breaking the law. They could cite medical reasons if necessary, even though they were never asked until last October’s incident. The incident highlighted the need for the amendment to the law and was probably the reason the parties finally decided to ignore church objections.

As Kyriakides yesterday said, it was time we stopped hiding behind our little finger. “We all know that unwanted pregnancies are terminated very frequently in the case of schoolgirls, but the Gynaecological Company told us (there was) zero.”

Without having the correct data, it will be more difficult to introduce programmes at schools to give teenagers advice about precautions and thus reduce the number of terminations.

This is a fair point, but more important is that a woman should have the right to choose, without concerns that she is breaking the law, even if the law was not enforced.

As for the church, it does not need the law to impose its moral teachings. The women that believe will follow the moral teachings of the church.

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