In addition, the health ministry's policy priorities the child, noted Marina Darakhvelidze, the director of the healthcare department under the Ministry of Labour Health and Social Affairs of Georgia.
Gender researcher Gvantsa Kvinikadze, who works on issues like access to abortion, notes that the obstacles and restrictions on abortion coincide with the increased influence of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Two generations ago, during the Soviet Union, abortions were widely viewed as a form of birth control. In fact as late as 2005, government statistics showed Georgian women were having, on average, 3.1 abortions in a lifetime, a figure that is high by global standards. By 2010, the number was down to an average of 1.6, according to UNICEF.
“Once the influence and authority of the Church strengthens, this proportionally increases the stigma on abortion. The Church considers a fetus a human being, therefore the decision of getting abortion is equal to murder for them. Our government is always sensitive to the position taken by the Georgian Orthodox Church and never makes a statement that is against its position,” Kvinikadze says.
As a result, it is getting more and more difficult for women to find doctors to perform an abortion.
Tamuna, 25, who was told she should terminate her pregnancy for medical reasons, also struggled to find a doctor willing to perform the procedure. Her own doctor refused on religious grounds, saying she was the mother of three little children and “didn't want to commit such a sin.”
“She said she would never do it and wouldn’t even send me to another doctor because she thought it would also be a sin. I asked her to recommend a qualified specialist who could give me the medication. She told me to go to Dighomi [a neighborhood in Tbilisi where there are a lot of hospitals] and saw me off. I went to one of the most prestigious clinics but my doctor turned out to be very rude, asking why I got pregnant in the first place if I didn’t want to keep the baby. I felt terrible! You know, I was there because I had no other choice!” Tamuna says.
The names of the doctors who do abortions are confidential for their own safety, and it is extremely difficult to find a clinic that provides the service, even in capital Tbilisi.