Officials in the Republic of Cyprus say sexual and reproductive rights of women on the island are being trampled in the absence of clear protocols, with access to abortion and long-term contraception being put on the line in the southern part.
The executive director of the Cyprus Family Planning Association, Maria Epaminonda, told members of parliament this week there were reports about doctors directing women not to get an abortion.
During a House committee hearing on human rights, Epaminonda told MPs that “even to this day in some districts, both in public and private sectors, there are doctors who deny women this right.”
A number of state and private doctors in Cyprus reportedly have been refusing to perform abortions, with Epaminonda pointing to a lack of clear protocols across all clinics and hospitals. Specific denials of service took place in 2020 according to a local report.
The CFPA director called on the state to step in, citing a case of an underage girl who went to have an abortion in the north due to prohibitive costs in the south’s private sector
The CFPA director said the state ought to step in, citing a case of an underage girl who went to have an abortion in the north due to prohibitive costs in the south’s private sector.
Only condom and pill, IUD for medical reasons only
“In Cyprus, they only offer the male condom and birth control pill,” Epaminonda said, adding that state hospitals offer the hormonal intrauterine device “only for medical reasons.”
The CFPA has officially criticized abortion guidelines offered to doctors within GESY, the state’s health insurance system, where physicians are compensated only for abortions linked to cases of rape, incest, or sexual abuse, noting that the instructions ruled out early term procedures within the first three months but also excluded operations beyond 19 weeks.
In 2018, Cypriot lawmakers took a first step towards full decriminalization by voting to decriminalize early term abortion by amending the island’s criminal code to make terminations risk-free. But experts had warned full decriminalization would still require a comprehensive legal framework.
GESY guidelines allow a pregnancy to be terminated by doctors within the network when a fetal anomaly is determined or the mother’s health is at risk, with CFPA telling the House committee in a letter that they were disappointed by the decision.
“We are disappointed with this decision, which goes against the principles of non-discrimination. We note our disagreement with the invocation of a medical procedure being ‘medically necessary’ as a reason to base such a decision,” CFPA said.
An official from the State Health Services Organisation, the largest healthcare provider in the Republic of Cyprus, confirmed during the meeting that a group of anesthesiologists had sent a letter declaring their refusal to administer anesthesia medications in cases of abortion procedures due to religious convictions.
SHSO official Agni Shialarou said the organization “had to look elsewhere to find replacements as we cannot order them what to do.”
“There is no specific protocol to follow beyond current legislation and we believe it is very important to introduce such protocol to be applied across all hospitals,” Shialarou said.
EU member states including the Republic of Cyprus have been proactively searching for ways to guarantee sexual and reproductive rights after the US Supreme Court ruled last month that the right to abortion was not afforded in the Constitution but was a matter up to individual states to decide.