Abortion ban in Abkhazia. “Is my child really more important to the deputies than to me?”
Abortion ban in Abkhazia
A ban on abortion in Abkhazia was introduced in early 2016, with the only exception being cases of intra-uterine fetal death. Eight years later, JAMnews decided to talk to those who have faced the consequences of this ban. Only one woman agreed to tell us her story.
No exceptions even in exceptional cases
In 2017, having taken a pregnancy test, Arina (name changed) finally saw the long-awaited two strips. This was her second pregnancy and, in spite of many chronic diseases, she approached the birth of her second child responsibly.
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“I have been preparing for this pregnancy for a year. The doctor who managed my first pregnancy lives in Russia. And then I got pregnant, everything was fine. But after a while, I realized something was wrong. First, I started bleeding. Then I just suddenly stopped feeling pregnant. That is, at first I felt that some already familiar processes were taking place in the body, and suddenly they stopped. I ran for an ultrasound here in Abkhazia and they told me that everything is fine.”
It was clearly a frozen pregnancy, when the fetus stops developing. This is the very exception provided for by law. However, the doctor refused to write this in the conclusion, suspecting that Arina was lying, deliberately exaggerating the term in order to obtain permission for an abortion.
“He said I needed to go to save. According to the law, in order to make sure that the pregnancy really froze, it is required to observe a woman for several days or even weeks! ”, Arina explains.
After leaving the clinic, she decided to go to Sochi to see her doctor. She got there with a high temperature and a contorted stomach. Repeated ultrasound confirmed the miscarriage. Arina was at risk of sepsis.
“It was about my health and even life. The issue needed to be resolved immediately. I had a medical abortion. And I concluded for myself that my state does not protect me in any way. I am not even in favor of amending the law, but for a complete repeal of the ban.”
Arina admits that the most difficult thing for her was to psychologically recover from a stillborn pregnancy. In this she was helped by the support of her husband. Most of Arina’s other family do not even know that all this happened.
“I didn’t come to my senses for a year or two. That pregnancy was so hard for me and losing her was also very hard. And I want to ask the people who introduced a ban on abortions in Abkhazia, I want to ask the church that supports it: “Do you really think that my child is more needed and dearer to you than to me?” I already have one child. I had to think about him, rather die of blood poisoning.”
Abortion versus unwanted pregnancy
A 2022 study found that limiting or outright banning abortions leads to an increased risk of suicide among women of reproductive age, psychiatrist Gvantsa Machavariani says. It is assumed that the main suicidal factor is the stress associated with unwanted pregnancy:
“According to studies, abortion does not worsen the mental health of a woman as much as the situation when she has to give birth as a result of an unwanted pregnancy,” the doctor believes.
Machavariani says that in conditions where educational work is not carried out to prevent unwanted pregnancies, cases of intrauterine pathology and the risk of developing postpartum depression and psychosis are more common. This reduces the overall level of mental health in society.
“In cases of the birth of children with pathologies, the state should take responsibility for their rehabilitation. And it cannot be said that this mechanism has been established in Abkhazia. Parents are also not always ready to take moral responsibility, which leads to an increase in the number of divorces. And as a result, such children turn out to be of no use to anyone: neither the state, nor often their own fathers,” the doctor asserts.
“The most desperate induced miscarriage, drank some terrible drugs”
Kamma Gopia is the head of the charitable public organization Kiaraz, which helps families with many children who find themselves in a difficult life situation. Gopia herself is against abortion, but considers it justified when there are medical indications.
“Certainly, the ban on abortion in Abkhazia affected our wards. Such laws primarily affect the lives of the most vulnerable segments of the population. Our patients cannot afford to travel outside of Abkhazia to have an abortion, so many did nothing and gave birth. And the most desperate induced miscarriage, drank some terrible drugs and almost lost their own lives.
Gopia tells the story of a pregnant woman who learned that her baby has a complex heart condition and is at high risk of Down’s Syndrome.
“Such a child needs special care, special nutrition, etc., which this family could not provide. They wanted to have an abortion, but according to the law it is impossible. Everything dragged on, the term was already too long, and our organization faced the question of how to organize the birth of a child with such a pathology. We had almost agreed with a clinic in Moscow. But then the fetus stopped growing. And, of course, all this was very stressful for the woman,” Gopia says.
On condition of anonymity, we managed to speak with an Abkhaz obstetrician-gynecologist. In her opinion, in the 21st century abortion is inappropriate , when various methods of contraception are available. The doctor asserts that abortions, especially frequent, are also dangerous to health, and it is better to educate the populace about contraception. However, she believes that the ban on abortion in Abkhazia should take into account at least non-viability of the fetus or when parents cannot take moral and material responsibility for raising a child with severe congenital pathology.
The main purpose of the ban on abortion in Abkhazia was to increase the birth rate. But, judging by the statistics, this goal was not achieved, the birthrate having fallen in recent years.
The article was prepared in cooperation with the Abkhaz initiative group My Right.
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