Kazakh Healthcare Ministry proposes reducing confidential abortion age to 16

ASTANA – Kazakh Vice Minister of Healthcare Lyazzat Aktayeva suggested reducing the age when adolescents can have an abortion without their parents’ permission (confidentially) to 16 during a Majilis (lower house of Parliament) meeting. Children’s health is the most important issue and access to timely medical services is essential, said the ministry’s public health policy department director Aizhan Ismagambetova after the session.

Photo credit: etoday.kz.

According to current Kazakh law, underage girls cannot terminate a pregnancy without their parents’ or guardians’ consent, which limits medical services to minors.

“This restriction prevents the timely receipt of medical services for the prevention of unwanted pregnancy and in the case of unwanted pregnancy, abortion and childbirth. Despite the fact that the number of births among adolescents over the past three years has decreased by 26 percent, their number was 3,443 in 2017,” she said.

Aktayeva also proposed the Education and Science Ministry revise the topics and increase the hours dedicated to healthy lifestyle subjects in the school curriculum.

Young people age 15-29 compose 22 percent of Kazakhstan’s population, she said. Comprehensive medical and social assistance are provided at 105 youth health centres.

“Today in Kazakhstan, there are separate legal entities in primary healthcare organisations such as youth centres that provide psychological counselling… We aim to ensure that young people go to these centres, receive counselling services and medical assistance and this affects the protection of young people’s reproductive health,” she added. “From year to year, the number of applicants is growing. Since the beginning of 2018, more than 256,000 young people have applied there.”

Receiving medical care with a guardians’ permission could be difficult if the child lives at a distance, noted Ismagambetova. The ministry wants to provide timely medical care.

“They (adolescents) cannot receive medical care without legal representatives. To bring a legal representative from somewhere in the region 300 kilometres away is difficult. Therefore, today we are pursuing a law to ensure that minors have access to medical care,” she said.

In an emergency, the immediate family will still be notified, while the doctor will assume responsibility for the quality of medical care. The patient will sign acceptance documents. Exemption from classes (for students) will depend on the patient’s health condition, she added.

Ismagambetova noted having an abortion at age 16 does not contradict international norms. In Russia, students can terminate an unwanted pregnancy without their parents’ consent beginning at age 15.

“In some foreign countries, there is no lower age limit at all. According to our research, which was conducted in the country, 70 percent of young people enter into their first sexual contact before the age of 15,” she said.

She noted Kazakh youth, due to their low level of awareness, do not use condoms.

“Young people do not use contraceptives. It is typical for their age to have low awareness. We envisage distribution of contraceptives for free to be implemented in the health code. This is also in the discussion process, because it is costly,” she added.