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The sanctions are being tightened on illegal abortions as the amendments in the Criminal Code of Georgia enter into force on 20 October 2014.

On 17 September 2014, the Parliament reviewed the bill with the second hearing on amendments in the Criminal Code of Georgia. During the review, one of the authors of the bill and the presenter, Dimitri Khundadze, stated:  “There is no European country with such a liberal attitude towards this crime. Before, this crime used to be punished with community service from 100 to 240 hours. International experience also shows that no country has such a liberal attitude towards this kind of crime and at least one year of imprisonment is designated for it everywhere.”

FactCheck

took interest in Dimitri Khundadze’s statement. We endeavoured to check into the criminal consequences of illegal abortion in Georgia.

In Georgia, abortion is allowed if the period of pregnancy does not exceed 12 weeks and the termination of the pregnancy is either necessitated by emergency or if the pregnancy endangers the life or health of the woman. The abortion can only be performed in a specially designated stationary medical facility. The abortion is considered illegal if it is performed in violation of these designated rules.

According to the prior legislation, abortion is a criminal offence. Chapter 133 of the Criminal Code of Georgia says:

  • Illegal abortion is punished with community service from 100 to 240 hours or with corrective work from one to two years;
  • The same action, carried out for the second time that caused lifelong uterine dysfunction or any other serious consequences, is punished with the restriction of freedom for a period of up to three years or with imprisonment from one to three years with the deprivation of the right to take up/hold an employment position for a period of up to three years;
  • Illegal abortion, which resulted in the termination of life, is punished with imprisonment from three to five years with the deprivation of the right to take up/hold an employment position for a period of up to three years.

According to the Criminal Code, in the case of an illegal abortion, the person who conducted the abortion is punished.

On 20 October, the new edition of Article 133 of the Criminal Code of Georgia entered into force according to which:

  • Illegal abortion is punished with community service from 120 to 300 hours or with imprisonment from one to two years;
  • The same action, carried out for the second time that caused lifelong uterine dysfunction or any other serious consequences, is punished with imprisonment from two to five years or with the deprivation of the right to take up/hold an employment position for a period of up to three years;
  • Illegal abortion, which resulted in the termination of life, is punished with imprisonment from four to six years or with the deprivation of the right to take up/hold an employment position for the period of up to three years.

The explanatory note to this bill says:  “The Criminal Code is overly liberal towards illegal abortion. There are almost no European countries with such a liberal attitude.” As we can see, Dimitri Khundadze’s statement is based upon the explanatory note to the bill.

The punishment for illegal abortion looking at the example of European and post-Soviet countries is reviewed in the research carried out by the Research Department of the Parliament of Georgia. According to this research, generally, an abortion is qualified as a crime in the following cases:

  • Illegal abortion with the consent of the woman – only these kinds of abortions are considered illegal in the CIS because abortion without the consent of the woman is considered as premeditated harm to her health;
  • Termination of the pregnancy without the consent of the woman – in most of the countries of Europe, this form of abortion is qualified as illegal;
  • Unauthorised abortion or artificial termination of the pregnancy by another person with the woman’s consent.

In most countries of Europe, abortion is legal. Only in Malta it is considered illegal. In Ireland, Andorra, San Marino and Monaco it is legal in cases endangering maternal life, mental health and/or physical health. Abortion is illegal in Poland and Spain with the exception of endangering maternal/foetal life and maternal physical/mental health and also in the cases of rape and when the foetus is seriously malformed.

Punishment for Illegal Abortion in the Countries of Europe:

Countries

Illegal abortion with request of the woman (maximum punishment - imprisonment)

Termination of pregnancy without the approval of the woman (maximum punishment - imprisonment)

Unauthorised abortion (maximum punishment - imprisonment)

Austria

1 year

3 years

1 year

Belgium

1 year

10 years

Romania

1 year (or fine)

1 year

Albania

2 years (or fine)

5 years

Hungary

3 years

5 years

Germany

3 years (or fine)

5 years

1 year

Spain

3 years

8 years

1 year

Norway

3 years

15 years

Iceland

4 years

2 years

Bulgaria

5 years

8 years

Luxembourg

5 years

10 years

Switzerland

5 years

8 years

Lithuania

2 years

Latvia

Fine

15 years

The Netherlands

Fine

12 years

As can be seen from the above table, illegal abortion is punished with imprisonment in the majority of European countries. The maximum terms of imprisonment vary from one to 15 years. In Romania, Albania and Germany, if the illegal abortion is made with the consent of the woman, the punishment may be a fine or imprisonment. The sanctions in Latvia and the Netherlands foresee only the fine in the case of illegal abortion.

Conclusion

From 20 October, sanctions are being tightened on illegal abortions in Georgia. With the prior legislation, illegal abortion used to be punished with a fine or community service with a period from 100 to 240 hours or corrective work with a period from one to two years. According to the amendments, the fine as a sanction will cease to exist. Illegal abortion will be punished by community service with a period from 120 to 300 hours or imprisonment from one to two years. The punishment is also tightened in the case if the abortion is a repetitive act, causes heavy consequences (e.g. uterine dysfunction) or results in the termination of life.

According to the research carried out by the Research Department of the Parliament, illegal abortion is punished with imprisonment in most of the countries of Europe (maximum terms vary from one to 15 years). In Romania, Albania and Germany the minimum punishment can also be a fine. In Latvia and the Netherlands, illegal abortion with the consent of the woman is punished with a fine.

Generally, as compared to the other countries of Europe, Georgian legislation may be viewed as relatively liberal because it did not foresee imprisonment in the very first case of an illegal abortion to the present day; although, it is a fact that illegal abortion is not punished with a minimum term of one year in European countries as Khundadze says. In certain cases, the punishment is a fine or imprisonment and in some cases, the maximum term of imprisonment is one year.

FactCheck concludes that Dimitri Khundadze’s statement:  “There is no European country with such a liberal attitude towards illegal abortions… There is a minimum of one year of imprisonment everywhere,” is HALF TRUE.

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