[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 14:21 GMT
Fears over Cyprus baby cash plan
A mother walks her baby near Cyprus' dividing line
Birth rates have become a political issue in divided Cyprus
A proposal to give a huge cash bonus to Cypriot women who have large families could in fact lead to an "epidemic" of abortions, an MP has warned.

The government has proposed a 23,000 (34,000 euro) bonus to mothers who have three or more children.

Maria Kyriacou says several pregnant women have contacted her to find out when the scheme is likely to start.

Women expecting a third child are considering aborting, and trying again once the payments are active, she said.

"I have had questions from ladies in the earliest stages of pregnancy considering whether they can afford to have a baby [at the present time]," Ms Kyriacou told the BBC News website.

"They could better afford it with a lump sum of thousands of pounds," the Conservative MP added.

"A baby's life is very important. It's wrong even to discuss killing a baby."

Turkish increase

Last week, Labour Minister Antonis Vassiliou said the government was considering a payment of 20,000 Cypriot pounds "for every third child born and thereafter".

The measure forms part of a package of welfare policies designed to promote the family and counter a tumbling birth rate.

A 20-week old foetus (Science Photo Library)

The birth rate among the Greek population of the divided island is much lower than that in the Turkish part, meaning the Turkish population is catching up with the Greek one.

Governments across Europe are trying to tackle falling birth rates.

The German government introduced a "baby bonus" beginning on 1 January this year, leading to some mothers due in late December reportedly trying to delay their labour.

'Insulting'

Abortion is tightly restricted in Cyprus, but is said to be common nonetheless.

Ms Kyriacou said that "to stop this from reaching epidemic proportions, we decided to sound alarm bells so that the labour ministry clarifies the amount and the time from which it will apply so that this confusion can end".

Mr Vassiliou dismissed fears of a rise in the number of abortions, saying: "I don't believe [Cypriots] would stoop so low as to use such methods and actions. I believe it is insulting to our people to project such claims."

Family planning groups said the government should simply announce that the payments would be paid retroactively, to make currently pregnant women eligible.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Cyprus
12 Dec 06 |  Country profiles

RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific