Can abortions be blamed for demographic crisis in Russia?

Three years ago, US physician George Tiller was shot dead during a church service. Tiller was criticized for performing abortions. Killing a doctor just because he or she performs abortions is absolutely unimaginable in Russia nowadays. However, the dispute about abortions in Russia continues to develop.

The prolife movement in the West exists for many years. The groups, which the movement unites, have the goal to ban abortions in the world. Prolife activists claim that human life is sacred, but the methods, which they use to prove that, are far from being perfect.

They arrange meetings in front of the clinics, where abortions are performed. They even picket the houses where surgeons live. They may even use radical measures in their activities: arsons, explosions and assassinations.

Prolife has recently come to Russia.

Russian anti-abortion activists are not as obsessed as their American colleagues. In Russia, they only organize public actions and conduct anti-abortion propaganda. However, some activists of the Russian organizations, which stand strongly against abortions, have already been noted in shady ventures. For example, Nikita Tikhonov, an activist of the "Russian Image" ultra-right organization, was sentenced to life in jail for the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov this year. The organization was standing strongly against abortions.

The issue of abortions received a lot of attention in Russia this year, which became a surprise for many. The State Duma discussed the bill about the basis for the protection of health of the citizens of the Russian Federation.

The law, initiated by the Health Protection Committee of the Duma, was supposed to regulate the artificial termination of pregnancy. The bill did not pass the first reading and was sent for further elaboration. The rumors about the amendments, which were suggested for the document, received quite a reaction in the country.

For example, it was particularly said that a woman would be allowed to abort her child only at her husband's consent. It was also offered to introduce the "time of silence" during which women would be convinced to rethink their decisions. To crown it all, it was offered to exclude abortions from the list of services relating to mandatory medical insurance.

Human rights activists, feminists and leftist politicians reacted extremely negatively to the above. However, the Russian Orthodox Church supported the suggestions entirely. It is worthy of note that the Church initiated many of those amendments.

The Duma will give the bill a second reading this fall.

Most of the amendments, which raised so much public protest, will not be included in the bill, officials of the Health Protection Committee of the State Duma said. The only of the above-mentioned amendments that will be included in the document is about the "time of silence." This time for women with up to eleven weeks of pregnancy will make up seven days. For those who are pregnant longer than eleven weeks will be given 48 hours. Medical specialists and psychologists will be talking to pregnant women during this time in an attempt to make them refuse from abortions. 

At the same time, the Duma is not intended to ban abortions. Such measures have already been taken in Russia before, and they are not going to bring any good. Women must make the choice themselves.

"Every woman has a right to decide her own maternity. This right is regulated by the concept for the realization of the right for reproductive choice of the World Health Organization. Unfortunately, the experience of the 1930s and the 1950s showed that banning abortions was useless. Abortions did not reduce in number. If a woman has decided to abort her baby, the absence of either special clinics or the legal right for that will not stop her. Restricting abortions will only lead to the development of illegal services, which in their turn can trigger the growth of the death rate among women," the chairman of the above-mentioned committee Olga Borzova said.

A number of public events under the slogan "My body - my business" has taken place in Russia recently.  Social activists, feminists and other people, who could not stay indifferent to the problem, set out their protests against the new bill.

"As a matter of fact, the problem is a lot larger than just banning abortions," feminist Eugenia Otto said. According to her, the new law could be equated to the notorious 83-Federal Law, which cut the budget spending on education.

"The goal of the new bill is to cut the budget funding on healthcare. Even if they keep abortions within the framework of mandatory medical insurance now, it will be possible to exclude them later. The authorities want to kill two birds with one stone. They want to optimize the budget at the expense of unprivileged categories of people. They also want to obtain a social base in most conservative and clerical circles. However, the problems of the budget could be solved through the nationalization of industry," Eugenia Otto said.

The problem of abortions stands beyond purely medical or moral polemics. It touches upon political and economic spheres. Why not banning contraceptives then? Some may say that abortions in Russia must be banned because of the demographic crisis in the country. However, it is not about abortions at all. If there were efficient measures in Russia to support family and maternity, they would contribute greatly to the increase of the birth rate.

Kirill Matveev


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov