Verdict: Dimitri Khundadze’s statement is MOSTLY TRUE.
Resume: The number of abortions, including induced abortions, has declined in the period of 2013-2016. In 2016 there were 10,505 less abortions as compared to 2012. The number of induced abortions per 1,000 live births has also decreased. However, despite this positive trend, the number of abortions still remains high.
Dimitri Khundadze suggests that the decreased number of abortions is related to the initiatives introduced by the Government of Georgia (including the healthcare programmes) and legislative regulations. These could indeed have had a certain impact upon the decreased number of abortions. However, in accordance with Georgia’s National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health, the principal reason behind the decreased number of abortions is the growth in the use of contraceptives. The Centre also stated that NGOs are also working in this direction (contraception). However, in the nearest future, the Centre plans to take specific measures in regard to family planning issues.
On 4 April 2018, at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia, Parliamentary Majority member, Dimitri Khundadze, stated: “In 2012, the number of abortions peaked in Georgia. Currently, as compared to 2012, the number of abortions has decreased by 10,000. This is related to a variety of initiatives as well as legislative regulations which were introduced in 2013-2014.”
FactCheck verified Dimitri Khundadze’s statement on the basis of the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health. In accordance with the statistics for 2008-2016, the highest number of abortions – 39,225 was registered in 2012. Since 2013, the number of abortions has been declining annually and in accordance with the latest available figure it dropped to 28,720 in 2016.
Abortion can be induced (artificial termination of pregnancy) or self-induced (self-induced miscarriage). The highest number of induced abortions was also registered in 2012. The number of induced abortions has been declining since 2013. However, after 2012 the number of self-induced abortions has increased.
Head of the Mother and Child Care Directorate at the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health, Lela Shengelia, in her interview with FactCheck, clarified that the sharp growth in the number of abortions in 2012 was caused by an improvement in abortion registration. Ms Shengelia stated: “On the one hand, the private sector has improved the registration of abortions and, on the other hand, the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health has been requesting complete data in regard to abortions which contributed to the sharp growth in the number of abortions in 2012.”
Graph 1: Total Number of Abortions in 2012-2016
The number of abortions performed on live births has also decreased. In 2012 there were 689.5 abortions per 1,000 live births whilst this figure dropped to 511.7 in 2016.
Graph 2: Number of Induced Abortions per 1,000 Live Births in 2012-2016
In accordance with the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health’s report, despite the trend of a decline in the number of abortions, the abortion to birth ratio in Georgia is much higher as compared to the European region, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the European Union.
Source: National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health, Database “Health for All”
It is true that the total number of abortions, including induced abortions, has decreased. However, the total 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, has increased. The overall coefficient of induced abortions was 0.9 in 2012 and dropped to 0.7 in 2013. In 2014-2015 the coefficient was fluctuating around 1 whilst it increased to 1.1 in 2016.
The Head of the Directorate of Mother and Child Care at the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health, Lela Shengelia, in her interview with FactCheck, stated further: “No significant differences are observed in the overall coefficient of induced abortions and it remains stable within the margins of 1. The formula envisions the number of reproductive age women which slightly affects the coefficient.”
Main Reason Behind the Decrease in Abortions is Contraception
In 2014, the Government of Georgia introduced legislative changes against abortions. Specifically, selective abortions (in terms of the sex of the unborn baby) were banned in the following manner: it was forbidden to learn the sex of the baby until the period when an abortion becomes illegal (abortion is legal in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy). In addition, the time period for consideration before the abortion increased from three to five days. Since 20 October 2014, sanctions about illegal abortions became stricter following amendments to the Criminal Code of Georgia.
Legislative restrictions, as well as the free healthcare programme for pregnancy and funding for childbirth, are likely to have a positive impact upon the decrease in the number of abortions. However, we are unable to offer a straightforward assertion or rejection of this idea. An induced abortion is the termination of an unwanted pregnancy and it is hard to reverse this decision by making the law more severe.
The United Nations Population Fund’s 2014 research reads: “The legal status of abortion does not affect a woman’s decision to have an abortion but it is directly related to access to a safe abortion.” In accordance with the World Health Organization: “Whether or not abortion is legally restricted, the likelihood of women having unplanned pregnancies and addressing medical services or the termination of a pregnancy is practically the same.”
In accordance with the information of the World Health Organization as well as the United Nations Population Fund, a real solution for decreasing abortions is to strengthen family planning services.
Lela Shengelia, in her interview with FactCheck, also said that the state has undertaken important steps in the direction of family planning. Specifically, medical guidelines about abortions have been developed and legislative changes have been introduced. However, as stated by Ms Shengelia: “The decrease in the number of abortions is flatly related to the increase in the usage of contraceptives.”
FactCheck tried to learn more about the effective steps undertaken by the state to improve access to family planning services.
Lela Shengelia commented: “The National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health is responsible for educating/informing the population about family planning. Currently, we are working on a website and the development of an application named Parent School and both of them will include information about reproduction issues and family planning. In addition, in the upcoming days we are going to meet with NGOs working on reproduction issues and we will develop a communication strategy aimed at increasing the awareness of the population in regard to reproduction issues, including those related to family planning.” Ms Shengelia also added that apart from the publication of different information on the website, the state has not made any specific steps towards increasing access to contraception.
“Unfortunately, many donors who used to work on the issues of contraception have already left the country. Therefore, the state starts to gradually assume this responsibility,” added Lela Shengelia.