Mortality of women and prohibited abortion in Abkhazia

The de facto parliament of Abkhazia banned abortion by a regulation passed five years ago, which led to an increase in the number of illegal abortions and impacted women’s mortality rate. The de facto parliament of Abkhazia voted on the amendment to the law on health care on December 18, 2015. The amendment was supported by 26 deputies against 3 and the law took effect on February 9, 2016. According to the so-called health care law of Abkhazia, any kind of abortion is prohibited, including for medical reasons.

Women are one of the most vulnerable groups in Abkhazia. It is an established belief in society that a woman is respected only after motherhood, after she manages her reproductive health in accordance with the requirements of the society.

The problem is complex and is rooted in the low standard of the protection of women's rights in the region. The complete abolition of the right to abortion introduced a mechanism for controlling women in Abkhazia in 2016. The ban on abortion was justified on religious grounds, according to which, "any living thing" must be born; The second argument was to increase the birth rate of ethnic Abkhazians. The female body has been declared as the object of reproduction and the right to health and free choice has been completely neglected.

On September 27, 2021, information was spread on the social network about the tragic story of a woman who was refused an abortion necessary for medical purposes, despite the medical report confirming that the fetus would die at birth. The victim met with local politicians, though she was told that no living thing would be subject to abortion.[1]

The incident sparked a local outcry and people started to speak openly about the issue on social media. As a result, it was found out that the mortality rate of women in Abkhazia was high. Because of the ban on abortion, women go to Sochi, if they can afford it. In some cases, they cannot come back – as delayed medical procedure can be lethal. The rate of self-managed abortion is also high. The socially upper class can solve similar issues by going to Russia, while the middle and lower strata are oppressed, controlled and deprived of the right to health.

According to open sources, the initiative to ban abortion originally came from Leonid Sevastyanov, who is the executive director of the St. Gregory the Theologian Foundation (founded by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk). The Foundation is based in Russia and is characterized by the spread of radical anti-Western rhetoric. Based on the results of the "research" conducted by the Foundation on the territory of Abkhazia, the leadership of the so-called republic saw the "necessity" of banning abortions and protecting the right to be borne. The debate over the ban on abortion helped popularize the idea and ultimately the law was adopted. Abkhazia now admits that the legislation is strict, the birth rate problem has not been resolved, women's mortality rate has increased and their physical and mental health has deteriorated.[2]

No qualified, credible research has been conducted in Abkhazia relating to the ban on abortion. It is unknown exactly how many women travel from Abkhazia to neighboring countries for abortions or how financially affordable it is for the locals to travel to another country for a similar medical procedure. Accurate statistics are difficult to find, although it is clear that the problem is exacerbating.

It is necessary to ensure the protection of women's rights in Abkhazia and to recognize them as subjects of rights.[3] The Democracy Research Institute recommends that the legal framework governing abortions in Abkhazia be in line with the World Health Organization guidelines and international human rights standards.


[1] JAM news, 2021, What do Abkhazians think about the ban on abortion after five years,

[2] Ekhokavkaza, 2017;  „Критиканам» не сдается наш гордый закон“

[3] Ekhokavkaza, 2021;  Белла Пилия: «Закон должен быть пересмотрен, чтобы никакая беременность не уносила жизнь женщины»;