Maternity Clinic Offers Signs of Hope in Abortion-Dominated Russia

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 11, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Maternity Clinic Offers Signs of Hope in Abortion-Dominated Russia

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
March 11, 2004

Moscow, Russia ( — Russia, long troubled by the remnants of Communism, persistent economic troubles, and the social problems associated with alcohol addiction, also happens to be one of the abortion capitals of the world.

The nation has the distinction of having one of the highest abortion rates on earth. It has even been said that the typical Russian woman has seven abortions in her lifetime, meaning abortion in Russia is even more commonplace than it is in the United States.

However, there are signs of hope amid the devastation caused by abortion, say pro-life advocates. Recently, a new maternity clinic opened outside of Moscow, offering comprehensive care for mothers and their newborn babies.

The clinic is on the site of a former abortion center, and backers of the project hope that other Russian abortion operations can be replaced with life-affirming maternity clinics in the near future.

The Russian clinic was made possible through a donation from Tom and Ann Murray of Sandusky, Ohio.

According to Deal Hudson, editor of Crisis Magazine, “Tom and Ann have always been interested in Russia, especially the plight of its children and mothers. So being people of strong pro-life convictions, they decided to donate the money to rehabilitate a dilapidated public hospital into a state-of-the-art maternity clinic there that would offer the best in perinatal care for mothers and newborns.”

In order to make the project a reality, the Murrays had to convince the Russian government to shut down an abortion office on site so that the maternity clinic could be opened.

And the project faced additional challenges. The building required an extensive renovation, and the prospective staff needed training.

A team of Russian doctors and nurses came to the U.S. to learn from a master of perinatal care, Dr. Alfred Brann, a pediatrics professor at Emory University. As a result of this period of study, the Russian health care professionals were able to learn the latest techniques in maternal and pediatric care.

At the time of the training, Dr. Brann said, “If they take the same key steps that the U.S. did in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, we can help them make advances in a much shorter time.”

Brann added, “Our similarity lies in the public manifestation of desire to put women and infant health care first. However, both countries have fallen short of putting the funds in the right places to make this happen.”

Brann noted that, when the U.S. was putting money into health care research, Russia was devoting its funds to the military.

Given outdated equipment and antiquated training, Russian doctors have had difficulty detecting health problems in pregnant women and unborn children, as well as establishing effective fetal monitoring during labor and delivery.

As a result, according to Hudson, “The natal care in Russia is abysmal.” But the Murrays aim to change that.

The couple also plans to renovate birthing suites and nurseries in the Moscow Region Perinatal Center, as well as opening four additional maternal centers around Russia.

The Murrays established the Future of Russia Foundation in August of 2001, an American, non-profit enterprise designed to help Russia build a modern health care system for women and infants. Through the foundation, the Murrays hoped to reduce maternal and infant mortality in Russia.

The transformation of Balashikha Hospital into a modern maternity clinic had the backing of former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.

In late 2002, at an event in Huron, Ohio, promoting the Russian project, Gorbachev said, “It is important that people-to-people help is channeled through truly charitable organizations so that it gets to the needy and does not get wasted or misappropriated by entities that pursue their business interests.”

The Balashikha Maternity Clinic, the foundation’s pilot project, was in 2002, “typical of what (was) available to Russian women and babies,” according to a letter written by Tom Murray at the time of the renovation.

“…It’s decrepit, lacks basic equipment, and the staff is grossly underpaid,” Murray said.

A large percentage of pregnancies in Russia end in stillbirth, and the fertility rate in women is falling. Half of all Russian newborns are sick at birth — of those, half will die within a week.

The surviving infants often have to battle disabilities such as cerebral palsy or mental retardation, according to the foundation.

The Murrays are hoping that children at the new maternity clinic named in the couple’s honor will be able to beat the odds.

Related web site:
Future of Russia Foundation –