New hurdles for abortion in Caucasus

New hurdles for abortion in Caucasus
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Georgian Health Ministry's decree for pre-abortion counseling by psychologists and social workers was criticized as a barrier to women's rights.

In a controversial move that has sparked outcry from women's rights advocates, Georgia's Health Ministry has introduced additional requirements for individuals seeking abortions. These requirements include mandatory counseling sessions with a psychologist and social worker, a measure that critics argue is designed to obstruct access to abortion services, as reported by OC Media.

The new decree, which was published on the Georgian Legislative Herald's website on October 27 and recently brought to light by local media, mandates that from January 1, 2024, anyone wishing to terminate a pregnancy must undergo confidential consultations with an obstetric gynecologist, a psychologist, and a social worker in a dedicated doctor's consultation room. These consultations are an addition to the already mandated five-day "cooling-off period" before an abortion can be performed, with the new legislation threatening a doctor's right to practice if this waiting period is violated.

The Ministry of Health has faced criticism for implementing the changes without engaging in dialogue with women's rights organizations. Baia Pataraia, the head of Georgian women's rights group Sapari, expressed frustration with OC Media, saying, "They did not consult with anyone." Pataraia also raised concerns about the financial implications of the new procedures, as abortions are currently not covered by state healthcare and must be privately funded. She warned that the increased costs could lead to a rise in unsafe, illegal abortions.

In her interview, Pataraia argued that the government should focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies by improving access to contraceptives and reproductive health education. She highlighted that the high cost of contraceptives and the lack of comprehensive sexual education contribute to the country's abortion rates.

According to the National Statistics Service of Georgia, 16,600 women officially underwent an abortion in the nation in 2022. A UN Women report from 2021 underscored the low usage of modern contraceptives in Georgia and identified significant barriers women face in accessing safe abortion services.

Under the new legislation, abortions for non-medical reasons are still permissible up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Beyond this term, abortions are only allowed for medical reasons specified in the decree, with a commission reviewing cases where the continuation of pregnancy poses a threat to a woman's life.

* Photo: OC Media