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Cypriot women wrongly told abortion is illegal

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Cypriot women seeking to terminate a pregnancy are being turned away by doctors, claiming that abortion is illegal, despite it being fully legalised in 2018 when the law was amended.

Under Cyprus law, amended in 2018, abortion is legal during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, while in cases of rape and sexual abuse, or if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother or the child, it can be terminated within 19 weeks.

However, the head of the Cyprus Family Planning Association, Maria Epaminonda, told parliament that doctors were misinforming women about their rights on the matter.

She told MPs that recently, the State Health Services Organization (OKYPY) was prompted to send a memo to all GHS hospitals advising doctors not to deprive women of their rights.

OKYPY official, Agni Sialarou, confirmed the organisation sent the advisory after it became aware of cases where doctors refused women an abortion either because they were misinformed or due to their personal beliefs.

A group of anaesthesiologists sent a letter to the Health Ministry stating that they refuse to carry out their duty in case of abortions due to religious beliefs.

“In these cases, we are forced to find other ways to close the gaps, as we cannot make doctors carry out the procedure.

“There is no protocol, other than the legislation, on hospital procedures when it comes to abortions,” said Sialarou.

The Commissioner for Equality Josephina Antoniou said: “We must focus on two main pillars where we are lagging, that is, sex education in schools and providing information to women”.

She noted that many women are not aware of their rights following the legislative amendment in 2018, nor are they aware of modern methods of contraception or have access.

Epaminonda stressed the health system’s importance in covering abortion procedures, as the cost in the private sector is a deterrent.

Currently, the GHS only covers abortion costs in cases of a pregnancy resulting from rape, incest or sexual abuse and only within the first 19 weeks of pregnancy.

The GHS also covers costs in cases where there are signs of fetal abnormality and when there is a risk to the woman’s health for physical or mental reasons.

“We express our disappointment with this decision, which goes against the principles of non-discrimination.

“We mark our dissent with the decision being based on whether an act is ‘medically necessary'”, said the Family Planning Organisation boss.

Shocked

MPs were shocked to hear Epaminonda describe the case of a teenage girl who resorted to pharmacists in the Turkish-occupied north for medication to terminate her pregnancy.

She said the only contraceptive methods available are the male condom and the pill.

“It is tragic and unacceptable state hospitals only install the coil for medical reasons and is not employed as a method of contraception.

Last week the European Parliament emphasised that “the right to abortion should be included in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights”.

The resolution came as an EU reaction to the decision of the US Supreme Court to overturn women’s right to abort a pregnancy.

According to the European Parliament’s resolution, EU countries should “guarantee access to safe, legal and free abortion services and prenatal and maternal healthcare services”.