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Russia Eases Ever Closer to Approval of New Limitations on Abortion

by | Nov 9, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Svetlana Medvedeva

As Russia rethinks social policies that have culminated in the highest abortion rate in the world (1.3 million, or 53.7 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, which is probably a radical underestimation), each time there is progress made you can anticipate another round of critical stories. Exhibit One is a piece in Reuters today under the headline “Church-backed abortion bill sparks protest in Russia.”

Favorable developments in Russia began last July. Lawmakers approved legislation requiring that no less than 10% of each abortion advertisement carry health warnings about abortion’s side effects, including loss of fertility.

On the web site a summary says the new law “is directed on the whole towards protecting women’s health and makes it mandatory for advertising of medical services on the artificial termination of pregnancy to include warnings on the danger of this procedure for women’s health and the possible harmful consequences, including infertility.” In addition, “The bill also stipulates that mothers who don’t want to keep their babies will be able to leave their newborn children anonymously in special adoption centers,” according to the Russian International News Agency Ria Novosti.

The law that the Reuters story takes square aim at is “an amendment to Russia’s law on health that is all but guaranteed to pass in the lower house after it was approved in a critical second of three readings on Oct. 21.” (When the amendment was approved last month, it was reported as if the measure had become law. Technically, it requires another reading, according to Reuters.)

The measure “limits abortions to 12 weeks of pregnancy, except for women who say they can’t afford a child, who may have an abortion up to 22 weeks,” according to the Associated Press. “The law also stipulates a mandatory waiting period of two to seven days before the procedure to allow a woman to reconsider her decision.”

Abortion is so prevalent that between 1992 and 2008, the population decreased by more than 5.7 million-–to around 143 million.

Interesting the Reuters starts out admitting that women used to line up at state clinics “by the dozen” for back-to-back abortions. “It was more common to take sick days for an abortion than for a cold in those days,” said gynecologist Lyubov Yerofeyeva.

Later in the story the same women’s rights groups who “voice outrage that the Church would play a role in shaping Russia’s secular laws and say abortion must remain a choice,” concede in the same paragraph that “the statistics point to a public health travesty.”

In addition to lobbing verbal grenades at “an influential anti-abortion lobby” backed by the Russian Orthodox Church, critics target “one of the prominent personalities promoting the Church’s position on the issue”– Russia’s “devout first lady Svetlana Medvedeva.” Her Foundation for Social and Cultural Initiatives held a national week-long campaign in July that they called “Give Me Life!” In response, Reuters writes, “More than 150 human rights and feminist groups signed a global petition against the measures last month, while others have staged rallies in Moscow.”

While the new draft bill left off requirements for parental consent or spousal consent for married women and the elimination of state support for abortion, pro-lifers say Russians are ready to see more limits.

“Attitudes are clearly changing swiftly and should be reflected in politics and the law,” spokesman Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said.

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Categories: Legislation