Today the Tuymazy district court of Bashkiria has received a suit for compensation of moral damage lodged on behalf of a woman whose pregnancy was terminated in the Tuymazy maternity clinic without her consent.
On August 19, 2010 Sirena (the last name is not given here following the applicant’s request), born in 1989, applied to the Interregional Committee Against Torture.
The Bashkirian representation conducted a public investigation which revealed that Sirena’s parents had decided to terminate their daughter’s pregnancy, once they had learnt that her common-law husband had been arrested. On May 1, 2010, i.e. on an official holiday and day-off, they took their daughter to the Tuymazy maternity clinic and forced to have an abortion by means of threats. At the same time the doctor performing the abortion knew that Sirena was against having her pregnancy terminated. Besides, the abortion was performed with grave breaches of relevant procedures.
The law in force does not criminalize termination of pregnancy in breach of the Guidance on the termination of pregnancy. However, the situation in question has violated Sirena’s rights guaranteed by the ECHR, because the termination of pregnancy was performed against her will.
The termination of pregnancy and surgery in this case can be qualified as inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention. The Convention, according to ECtHR case law, covers actions and omissions of doctors, including in the sphere of termination of pregnancy (see, for instance, ECtHR judgment of July 8, 2004 “Vo v. France”, no. 53924/00).
Besides, the authorities have certain obligations regarding protection of life and health. For example, the state should imposed legislation to regulate doctors’ responsibility for violating patients’ rights. However, this case demonstrates an apparent legislative gap. The authorities should ensure that terminations of pregnancy are lawful and are performed in accordance with an established procedure, which was not done in Sirena’s case, as the abortion was not documented and did not take place in business hours, i.e. formally.
This demonstrates that Sirena’s right under Article 8 of the Convention (right to respect for private life) has been violated. According to ECtHR case law, pregnancy and its interruption pertain to the sphere of mother’s private life, therefore, an abortion would be an interference into the private life (ECtHR judgment of March 20, 2007 “Tysiac v. Poland”, no. 5410/03). As the abortion was performed in breach of law, such interference violates Article 8 of the ECHR.
Besides, there is a breach of Article 13 of the ECHR in respect of Sirena, as she has no domestic remedies at her disposal, since it is impossible to prosecute those responsible under Russian law.
The Committee Against Torture intends to ensure full compensation of moral damage incurred by the actions of the medical staff.
In a couple of days we will post more information about the facts of this case on the CAT’s web-site.