Cyprus decriminalises early term abortion

A majority of MPs on Friday voted to decriminalise abortion by amending the island’s criminal code to make terminations risk-free.

The vote passed with 33 MPs voting in favour, eight against with five abstentions.

The amendment gives women the right to an early term abortion, that is to terminate an unwanted pregnancy up to 12 weeks or if there is significant medical condition in the fetus – or if rape or incest is involved – up to 19 weeks.

Lawmakers said it was the first step towards full decriminalisation with a comprehensive legal framework to follow.

The amendment gives women the right to an early term abortion up to 12 weeks or up to 19 weeks under certain conditions

This will include provisions for obligatory counselling prior to an abortion, sex education in schools and prevention awareness.

The change in the penal code is intended to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies as has happened in other countries where decriminalisation took place and terminations went down.

Conservative Disy MP Stella Kyriakidou argued prior to the vote that making abortions illegal does not reduce them but makes them unsafe and puts women’s lives at risk.

She said the law change was not about family planning but aimed at creating a safe environment for women who are currently opting for unsafe illegal terminations.

There is no reliable data or statistics on abortions in Cyprus but young women are opting for illegal terminations in secret, said Kyriakidou.

Decriminalisation is a sensitive issue in a conservative society such as Cyprus where the Orthodox Church is opposed to abortions being decriminalised and there were protests outside parliament earlier this month against the law.