Russian President Medvedev Signs Pro-Life Bill on Abortion Risks

International   Steven Ertelt   Jul 15, 2011   |   1:10PM    Moscow, Russia

Russia has the first pro-life law the nation has passed since it fell under communist rule and the law is a reaction to the alarmingly high abortion rates the nation sees, which has sparked an underpopulation crisis.

President Dmitry Medvedev signed into law Thursday a measure that informed women of the risks associated with an abortion prior to her having one. Russia has some of the highest abortion rates in the world, with some women having as many as six or more abortions, and the risks associated with abortions such as increasing the risk of breast cancer or premature birth in subsequent pregnancies, needs to be made known.

According to an AP report, the Kremlin said the law is aimed at “protecting the health of the woman” from dangers associated with abortion, such as sterility. The law requires that any ads for abortions carry information about the risks and that he risk information occupy no less than 10 percent of the space of the magazine or newspaper ad.

With more than one million having abortions annually in Russia, the nation’s population has dropped from 145 million in 2002 to under 143 million as the death rate no exceeds the birth replace. Coming in below replacement level, Russia’s population will not be able to support its elderly citizens and the nation faces an acute worker shortage.

The summary on the Web site said 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.” 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, the Novosti news agency indicates.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of the president, has taken up the cause of reducing abortions and has started a  “Give Me Life!” campaign with brochures and a web site designing to promote a “week against abortion.” One brochure warns that “the consequences of a thoughtless step can ruin one’s life” and talked about the increased potential for breast cancer following abortion.

“The campaign was tied into the “Day of Family, Love and Faithfulness,” a holiday created by Mrs. Medvedeva and the Russian Orthodox Church and centered around Pyotr and Fevronia, a couple who ruled the Murom region northeast of Moscow in the late 12th century and were later declared saints. The president and his wife went to Murom to extol family values and encourage childbirth,” the Times said.

The Times also indicated other attempts to stem the number of abortions were shot down.

“Meanwhile, Valery Draganov, a member of Parliament from United Russia, the pro-Kremlin party, reintroduced a legislative package for consideration in the lower house that would place strict limits on abortion,” it said. “Officials of the Russian Orthodox Church had complained that members of Parliament who support a right to abortion had scuttled amendments to a health bill that would have imposed a waiting period. Voting on that bill, which raises a number of other medical issues that have caused an outcry in Russia, has been postponed until autumn.”

The bill would have made 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.

In a recent speech,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 held 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.

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.