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Lawmakers in Russia Look to Impose Numerous Restrictions on Abortion

Martha Kempner

In an effort to curb abortion rates, lawmakers in Russia take a page—or several—right out of the U.S. anti-choice lobby’s playbook and seek to impose numerous restrictions on abortion. 

Some in Russia are concerned with the nation’s high abortion rate, which according to the United Nations was 53.7 abortions per 1,000 women in 2004 (in contrast, the United States had a 2004 abortion rate of 20.8 per 1,000 women).  Abortion was readily available during the days of the Soviet Union and some argue it was the only form of family planning in the nation. Despite big drops in abortion in recent years (in 2009, there were 74 abortions for every 100 births down from 169 abortions per 100 births in 2000), some are concerned that the rates are still too high and are contributing to the country’s dwindling population.

The solution some lawmakers have come up with is to introduce legislation that would drastically restrict abortions and impede women’s rights to control their own bodies.  The proposed law would ban free abortions at government-run clinics, prohibit the sale of the morning-after pill without a prescription, require married women to get the permission of their spouse, mandate parental consent for teenage girls, and institute a one week (yes, one week) waiting period so women can consider their decisions.   (Looks like they took a page—or several—right out of the U.S. anti-choice lobby’s playbook.)

Though the legislation also includes a facsimile of our Safe Haven laws—women would be allowed to drop off infants under six months in designated locations without fearing any criminal charges—it does not include any measures designed to lower the unintended pregnancy rate (such as increased access to contraception or family planning information) nor does provide any support to women who choose to carry a pregnancy to term. (Again, sound familiar?)

It is unclear whether the measure will pass. In 2010, a bill that would have imposed criminal charges on doctors who performed late-term abortions faced government opposition and was never even put up for a vote. At least one lawmaker, thinks radical restrictions on abortion will do more harm than good: “Natalya Karpovich, a lawmaker with the dominant pro-Kremlin party United Russia, who is expecting her fifth child, said she supported stricter regulation of abortions. But she said banning the procedure in Russia was unrealistic and would only lead to more children whose parents were unwilling or unable to care for them.”

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