Russia’s Orthodox Church, MPs Pushing Bill to Limit Abortions

International   Steven Ertelt   May 31, 2011   |   3:46PM    Moscow, Russia

The Russian Orthodox Church and members of the parliament in Russia are pushing legislation to put new abortion limits in place because the nation has seen abortion rates skyrocket as abortion is used as a form of birth control.

The legislation, according to an AP report, would prohibit free abortions paid for under the government-run health care program at official clinics. The bill also implements spousal consent for married women and teen girls must obtain the permission of their parents for an abortion. The bill would also implement a week-long waiting period before an abortion can be done — giving women time to find other, better options for an unplanned pregnancy.

AP indicates the Russian abortion rates are still some of the highest in the world and have contributed to a fertility rate of only 1.4 children per woman, which is well below the 2.1 children per woman necessary to maintain a nation’s population. Abortion has become such a pervasive form of birth control that the nation is seeing worker and population shortages that are already beginning to take an economic toll. A 2004 UN survey showed Russia had the world’s highest abortion rate at 53.7 per 100 women as more than 1.3 million abortions were done in 2009.

“The bill aims to create the conditions for a pregnant woman to opt for giving birth. We have public support but does the ruling party hear us?” Yelena Mizulina, head of the State Duma committee for family, women and children told the Ria Novosti news outlet in April.

The bill makes it so abortion would no longer be qualified as a medical service under the nation’s government-run health system, thus allowing physicians to opt out of doing them. The measure would also increase the monthly payments to pregnant women from the current 2,000 rubles ($70) a month until birth. The legislation could also make it illegal to do abortions in the second half of pregnancy.

Mizulina wants to build public support for the bill before the Duma votes on it, because an abortion limit measure died in the legislature last year.

The legislation is getting support from the Russian Orthodox Church, and church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin told AP, “I hope that very soon we will live in a Russia without abortions.”

In a recent speech,

ussian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pledged to raise the nation’s birthrate by up to 30% in just three years. Due to a rapidly falling fertility, Russia has experienced a dramatic population decline, going from 148.5 million people in 1995 to 143 million today despite efforts by various governments to boost the birth rate. Unofficial estimates indicate that there are nearly 4 million abortions per year in Russia yet only 1.7 million live births.

Putin’s plan calls for spending the equivalent of 33 billion pounds to encourage Russian families to have more children. But World Congress of Families director Larry Jacobs says that more than cash incentives and government benefits will be needed to raise Russia’s well-below-replacement birth rate.

Against this underpopulation backdrop, the World Congress of Families will hold the world’s first demographic summit – “Moscow Demographic Summit: Family and the Future of Humankind” – at the Russian State Social University (RSSU), June 29-30.

RSSU is one of Russia’s largest public universities, with over 100,000 students, and the nation’s leading institution for educating social workers.

Jacobs noted the Summit comes at a crucial time. “It’s not Russia alone that’s experiencing demographic winter,” Jacobs observed.

“Worldwide, birthrates have declined by more than 50% since the late 1960s. By the year 2050, there will be 248 million fewer children under 5 years-old in the world than there are today. This birth dearth will be one of the greatest challenges confronting humanity in the 21st century,” he said.

Jacobs noted: “The Summit will include discussions of The Demographic Potential of Russia – The Importance of Pro-Family Public Policy in Russia and the West – Demographic Indicators of Developed and Developing Nations – The Crisis of Family: Marriage, Abortion, Contraception – Population Control – Influence of Demographics on Economic Processes – Human Capital and Family-Friendly Business Practices – Population Aging and Ways to Overcome Demographic Challenges.”