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On 17 September 2014, at a plenary session of the Parliament, the Head of the Health and Social Affairs Committee, Dimitri Khundadze, presented the bill on the amendments being made to the Criminal Code of Georgia after the second hearing. The bill envisages the tightening of regulations concerning illegal abortions. Gigi Tsereteli, whilst giving a speech at the session as well, stated:  “We have been discussing this issue of illegal abortions. There is no doubt that we should fight against this phenomenon. Today, it is considered that the law should be tightened. We are not against it. Time will show how effective this will be. As for abortion statistics, the rate decreased in the last decade and these are not my personal data. These are the data of the United Nations Population Fund.”

FactCheck

took interest in the statement and verified its accuracy.

We reached Gigi Tsereteli and asked him to explain which rate he meant. He indicated that he was basing his statement upon the Final Report of the Reproductive Health Survey Georgia 2010.

The results of the Reproductive Health Survey are presented in the Final Report of the Reproductive Health Survey Georgia 2010.

The aforementioned Survey is the last of three representative countrywide research activities. The first two were carried out in 1999 and 2005, respectively. The National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health implemented the Reproductive Health Survey Georgia 2010 with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Within the framework of the Survey, 6,292 women aged 15-44 years were selected and surveyed from October 2010 to February 2011. The aim of the Survey was to define the situation in Georgia regarding birth rate, abortion and contraception usage together with other problems associated with reproductive health.

According to the Survey, the highest rate of abortions is in the Caucasus region. In Armenia and Azerbaijan, every woman will have had more than two abortions in her lifetime.

The general number of abortions decreased in the last ten years. In 1999, there were 3.7 abortions per woman, in 2005 – 3.1 and the number decreased to 1.6 in 2010. This index is the total number of the induced abortion rate (TIAR) which gives the number of abortions a woman would have in her lifetime under the current age-specific induced abortion rates. According to the Survey, the decrease in the overall coefficient of abortion began in 1999 (3.7). The number decreased to 3.1 in 2002-2005 (a 48% decrease) and then to 1.6 in 2005-2010 (a 57% decrease).

The ratio between induced abortions and live births has been changing year by year.  It was 2.1:1 in 1999, 1.5:1 in 2005 and 0.8:1 in 2010. Therefore, according to the 2010 Survey, the amount of live births exceeded abortions for the first time.

According to the Survey, obtaining exact data on abortions is complicated in every country. The accuracy of the data is dependent upon the quality of the medical infrastructure and so forth. Based upon the same Survey, the trends of abortion in Georgia vary from the official statistics, on one side, and the Survey results, on the other.

image001

As the graph shows, the number of abortions decreased from 1999 to 2010 (from 3.7 to 1.6). According to the official source as well, the number of abortions decreased from 1989 to 2005 (from 1.8 to 0.4) whilst the number of abortions increased from 2005 (from 0.4 to 0.9). The trend of increase, however, is not supported by any research.

Based upon the Survey, government agencies of the countries where abortion is legal collect data from medical facilities. In the post-Soviet states, counting the number of abortions became more difficult after the fall of the Soviet Union. Governmental agencies collected abortion data from medical facilities during the Soviet rule although these facilities often concealed unfavourable healthcare statistics. During the transitional period of the post-Soviet economy, other problems emerged regarding statistics such as, for example, medical facilities which were left without funding and stopped counting the number of abortions. In addition, data from the private medical sector were not usually pictured in the statistics similar to the cases of unauthorised abortions.

According to the Reproductive Health Survey, the individual reproductive health surveys carried out in Eastern Europe give more comprehensive information about abortions as compared to the regular data collected using the healthcare informational systems. In the Caucasus region, the Survey numbers are higher than the official rates and this indicates that there are flaws in the official abortion statistics. In total, the official statistics offer an incomplete picture of real abortion rates.

image002 Source: CDC and ORC Macro, 2003. Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, A Comparative Report; Serbanescu et al. 2007

According to the above graph, there is a vast difference between the Survey and the official data in the countries of the Caucasus. In Romania, Ukraine and Moldova, the situation is more favourable. There is a smaller difference between the Survey and official statistics in these countries whilst in Moldova both sources comply which means that the official statistics illustrate the real picture.

In the same graph, the dynamics of abortions are shown according to both Survey and official statistics. According to the Reproductive Health Survey, 125 abortions were recorded per 1,000 women in 1999 whilst the number equalled 18 based upon official statistics. In 2005, 104 abortions were recorded based upon the Survey whilst this number is 15 according to official data. The Survey data show 56 abortions in 2010 although official sources put this figure at 31. The number of abortions has decreased from 125 to 56 in the period of 1999-2010 based upon the Survey data and then increased from 18 to 31 according to the official source (all of the data – per 1,000 women).

FactCheck has already published an article about abortion statistics in Georgia. According to the official statistics that we received from the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health, the number of abortions increased in the last decade. The official data show that 14,951 abortions were registered in 2000 and 25,525 in 2010. The number of abortions increased in the last decade based upon the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia

as well.

We asked the Head of the Mothers’ and Children’s Health Directory at the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health, Lela Shengelia, to explain the reasons for the difference between the official data and those of the Reproductive Health Survey. According to her, the process of registering abortions has improved in the last years. Private clinics are interested in providing the exact data and the counting and recording process has also improved.

Shengelia also added that there was a catastrophic situation regarding the counting and recording of abortions in the Soviet Union. Obstetricians/gynaecologists typically falsified statistics and so only a small portion of abortions were registered owing to corruption activities. Other types of difficulties emerged in the post-Soviet period. The medical infrastructure was in near complete disorder, no funds were available for medical services and abortions were rarely counted and recorded. The sharp increase in abortions in the official statistics is also due to this fact (statistics did not reflect the real picture in previous years). In addition, the difference between the Reproductive Health Survey and official data has always been there. The better the statistics office works, the less the difference is between the Survey and the official data. Shengelia added that even though there is a trend of a decreasing number of abortions, there are still reasons for worry. Abortion is one of the most acute problems and their number is still catastrophically high in Georgia.

The next Reproductive Health Survey will be carried out in 2015. Lela Shengelia has hope that it will provide us with the full picture about abortion trends and that the difference between the Survey and the official data will be minimal.

Conclusion

According to the Final Report of the Reproductive Health Survey Georgia 2010, the number of abortions in Georgia has decreased throughout the last decade. The number of abortions was 3.7 per woman in 1999 and 1.6 in 2010. Based upon official statistics, however, the number of abortions increased from 2000 to 2010. The number of abortions in Georgia remains extremely high.

FactCheck concludes that Gigi Tsereteli’s statement:  “The abortion rate decreased in the last decade. These are the data of the United Nations Population Fund,” is HALF TRUE.

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