Moldovan Woman Imprisoned for Abortion Pardoned and Freed

Center for Reproductive Rights applauds her release, but calls for significant reform in Moldovan policies on sexual and reproductive rights

(PRESS RELEASE) In a highly-anticipated decision, the Moldovan Pardoning Commission finally granted pardon to Z., a young woman who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for having an abortion at home—despite the fact that there is no criminal punishment in Moldovan law for women who have illegal abortions, and her conviction proceedings were marred by clear evidence of discrimination against women.
 
The Center for Reproductive Rights and its local partners commended the commission’s decision, but also called for substantial reform in Moldova’s policies on sexual and reproductive rights, highlighting the critically low quality of abortion care and high instance of discrimination against women who seek post-abortion care in Moldova. Z. was released on January 31.
 
“After five years of wrongful imprisonment, Z. is finally able to begin putting her life back together after suffering this grave injustice by her own country,” said Johanna Westeson, Regional Director for Europe at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “While we are pleased Z. has finally been released from prison, she still must be fully exonerated, and her pardon does not absolve the state of its responsibility to redress the injustices and harms Z. has suffered.
 
“Z.’s case clearly illustrates the need for comprehensive reform in the areas of sexual and reproductive rights in Moldova, as well as an urgent need to combat discrimination of women and degrading treatment on gender grounds in legal proceedings.”
 
Z. was arrested in 2006 after she sought emergency care at a hospital due to complications from having an abortion at home late in her pregnancy. Not only was she charged with intentional and premeditated murder, but while awaiting trial in prison, she was denied post-abortion care and humiliated by male prison guards, and endured discriminatory remarks against her.
 
Moldovan law allows women to receive abortion services without restriction through 12 weeks of pregnancy and up to 21 weeks under special medical and social circumstances. Additionally, there is no criminal penalty for women who seek or obtain an illegal abortion. Nevertheless, Z. was charged with intentional murder and received a shocking 20-year sentence.
 
In February 2009, the Center and its partner organization, the Moldovan Institute for Human Rights (IDOM), filed a complaint on behalf of Z. against Moldova before the European Court of Human Rights. The complaint charges that Moldova violated a number of Z.’s rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights—including the right to liberty, security, a fair trial, as well as the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment, not to be convicted for a crime and punished with no basis in law, and not to be discriminated against based on sex. The case of Z. is currently pending before the European Court.

The Center for Reproductive Rights continues to fight for justice in this case, as well as for reforms to ensure full compliance with Moldova’s international human rights obligations. The case aims to ensure that women who undergo illegal abortions are not treated as criminals—and to establish post-abortion care an essential component of healthcare that should be provided in all settings, including prisons.
 
“The Moldovan government must condemn any discrimination by law enforcement, and enact laws to prevent and punish such harmful acts against women,” said Westeson.

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