Russia is one of the few countries in the world where the number of abortions outnumber the number of live births.
For example in 2001, 1,320,000 children were born in Russia, while 1,800,000 abortions were performed.
These figures are especially tragic given that Russia is facing a disasterous demographic crisis with the UN estimating that Russia could lose more then half of its population by 2050.
One of the strange thing about coming from the US and living in Russia is the complete night and day difference in attitudes towards abortion. In the US there seems to be a real political militancy on both sides of the issue.
But in Russia there is ZERO public controversy over this issue.
I have personally never seen this issue politicized or protested in any way. In fact abortions are usually only refered to as an “operation” that happens in the event of an accidental pregnancy.
This is a complicated issue and I can only guess that the lack of public outcry over it is in no small part due to the Communists banning religion during Soviet times. Since mainstream religions universally condemn abortion as the gravest sin then the strict elimination of these moral boundaries combined with the nearly free and on-demand access of abortions to all women at the start of the USSR has certainly contributed to this current situation.
Russian Women are already strictly private about their relationship, sex or health issues so you will never hear about an abortion on a personal level.
But on the flip side since my time here I’ve known of several young women who became pregnant by their boyfriends and decided to keep their babies and try to make the best of it by getting married.
One of these girls was a good platonic friend of mine who just delievered her baby 2 months ago. She and her new husband are both around 20 years old. When she was still dating this young man she told me that if she ever got pregnant she would never get an abortion because of her beliefs. More importantly.. her mother would never approve of it and would absolutely insist that she keep her baby.
I personally believe that there is a growing number of ladies in this country who share the same attitude as my friend. The Russian Orthodox Church has regained it’s once proud status in this country. And as you will read about in the following article other Russian Women are coming forward to counsel other women on the full facts of their decision to get an abortion.
Abortion foes begin to make their case in Russia
Doctors and politicians are quietly struggling to change the nation’s casual attitude toward the procedure.
By Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 21, 2008
MOSCOW — Abortionist Marina Chechneva remembers the old-style Russian gynecologists who worked in state hospitals and churned out back-to-back abortions like Soviet factory workers. She remembers the women who “used to use abortion as a kind of vacation, because in the U.S.S.R., they got three days off from work.”
These days, Chechneva is writing magazine articles about fetus development in hope of raising public opposition to abortion. After years of handling fetuses, she explains, she has come to feel a responsibility toward the unborn children.
“They should realize that what they’re doing is already a murder,” she said.
A fledgling antiabortion movement is beginning to stir in Russia. Driven by a growing discussion of abortion as a moral issue and, most of all, by a government worried about demographics, doctors and politicians are quietly struggling to lower what is believed to be one of the world’s highest abortion rates.
“The attitude has changed,” abortion practitioner Alexander Medvedev said. “Even in community clinics, doctors are trying to dissuade patients from abortion. Now teenagers come to see us with already two or three abortions, and it’s horrible.”
It’s an uphill struggle. Doctors complain that contraceptive use remains unpopular and that many Russian women rely on abortion for birth control.
The government is desperate to persuade citizens to bear more children. Russians are dying faster than they’re being born, a trend that has emerged as one of the most serious challenges faced by this sprawling, scantily populated land.
The discussion is devoid of terms such as “pro-life” or “pro-choice.” From doctors to patients to officials, nobody seems to consider seriously the possibility of outlawing abortion. But the government recently imposed new restrictions on the procedures after the 12th week of pregnancy, and toughened the language of a waiver that Russian women must sign before terminating a pregnancy.
Late-term abortions used to be easily accessible on “social” grounds: A woman merely had to visit a social worker, complain that she wouldn’t be able to raise a child, and she could collect a stamped waiver. These days, exceptions are available only for extreme circumstances, such as the sudden death of a husband or a medical emergency.
In 2007, for the first time in decades, Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service counted slightly more live births than abortions in Russia. But doctors say those statistics are flawed because of the growing number of women who opt for undocumented abortions in private clinics.
Legal system aside, many gynecologists have launched their own small efforts to persuade patients to go through with their pregnancies. Although Russian law requires parental consent only for girls younger than 16, many doctors boast that they involve the parents of any patient younger than 19.
“This is the decision of a lifetime,” gynecologist Natalia Smirnova said. “It’s very important for me to show them the ultrasound picture of their fetuses. This stops most of them.”
Speaking in her private clinic while women in their 20s filled the waiting room outside, Smirnova pointed to pictures of fetuses taped to her office walls and described the conversation she holds with a would-be abortion patient.
“I ask her to please explain to me and give me the reasons why she can’t preserve her pregnancy. I’m not satisfied with, ‘I’m afraid.’ I want to hear the whole story. ‘What did the father-to-be tell you, what did your mother say?’ There were cases when I myself called her mother in another town. By appealing to her mother, her partner, the future father, you can often succeed in making her change her decision and preserve her pregnancy.”
Women interviewed for this article spoke wistfully, even painfully — but with an underlying grain of pragmatism — about the decision to end their pregnancies. Mostly sheltered from public or political discussions of abortion, they tended to describe the procedure as a medical decision that had surprising personal aftershocks.
“You kill not only a child, a living being, but a part of yourself, something that was alive in you,” said Irina, a 25-year-old Muscovite who has had three abortions. The young women who were interviewed declined to give their last names. “There’s a trauma and a grief you suffer. You murder a child. It was much more difficult than I expected.”
Still, Irina repeatedly chose abortion when she felt she was without options — unemployed despite her university degree in accounting, married to first one man and then another who didn’t want the babies. She never used birth control. She became pregnant, then went to the state clinic and waited in line for a no-cost abortion.
“It’s like a conveyor belt,” she said. “Women sit next to the abortion room in a line, and it happens very quickly.”
It shouldn’t be so casual, Russian lawmakers contend.
“The spiritual position,” said Natalia Karpovich, a leader of the State Duma committee focused on family, women and children, “should be that this is murder and the woman who does this commits a sin. Still, I want to stress it’s a woman’s choice.”
Karpovich is among Russian lawmakers who’ve pushed for media messages casting abortion in a less neutral light. She also supports new measures meant to encourage childbirth by paying out cash bonuses and opening new day-care centers across the country.
“Like on packs of cigarettes or bottles of alcohol, advertisements for abortion services should be obligated to warn about the consequences,” she said.
“That they may result in infertility, that some bad changes may happen in the female organism.”
Summer rain fell over the streets, and Karpovich was holding court in an expensive cafe near the Kremlin, flitting from table to table in a series of quick meetings. Her fingers flashed with diamonds; her body was swathed in a Pucci-style dress. She herself, she pointed out, was expecting her fifth child.
“As a Russian woman and mother, I feel the presence of the state, that my child has a future, that my country needs me as a mother and needs my child,” she said, smiling serenely.
“The economic development of Russia has led us away from the priority of building a family and gave a serious boost to abortion.”
But working women, many of whom came of age during the financial mayhem of the 1990s, complain that massive cash inflows generated by oil haven’t trickled down fast enough. They simply can’t afford to contemplate childbirth, they say.
“It works like this: The first priority is to get a career, then an apartment, then a car,” said Yulia, a 21-year-old secretary at a sewage company and a dead ringer for Scarlett Johansson. “Then all of a sudden it’s too late to have children, and this is torturing you the whole time.”
Last year, Yulia found out during a routine physical that she was eight weeks pregnant. “The guy I was dating was totally against having children, and I didn’t want to have a child with him, specifically,” she said. “It’s so easy these days. You can just go do it, and nobody thinks about it.”
After the abortion, nothing changed. She stayed with her boyfriend, and off contraception. Six months later, she was pregnant again. That time, her doctor told her she couldn’t have another abortion so soon. So she found a private clinic and a doctor with fewer qualms.
“In the past, it was easier to raise kids. Despite all the shortages, everything was so cheap and there were a lot of free services,” she said ruefully, with a shrug.
“I know I have a duty before my country, but I think my duty to myself is stronger. You don’t give birth to a child just to continue the line.”
(you can read the original article here)