Russian Health Ministry plans to set up pregnancy centers to lower abortion rate
In its continuing effort to boost its birth rate, the Russian government is looking at setting up crisis pregnancy centers to help dissuade women from abortion.
"The Health Ministry supports the creation of crisis centers for pregnant women, where they can get professional counseling from social workers. We think that this is the most promising and humane way of reducing the number of abortions," said Elena Baibarina, the head of the Health Ministry's Department for Health Care for Children and Obstetric Aid, according to a RIA Novosti report.
Prominent Russian demographer Veniamin Bashlachev toldRossiyskaya Gazeta that Russia's population loss through abortion in the decades leading up to the fall of communism was two and a half times the number of lives Russia lost in the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the Second World War combined. Abortions in the 1960s to the end of the 1980s averaged more than 4.5 million a year.
By 2011 the Russian population stood at 143 million people, down by 5.7 million since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.
To combat the abortion epidemic, the Russian government has proposed legislation that would ban free abortions at government-run health clinics, require prescriptions for the ‘morning-after’ pill, require parental consent for teenagers and a husband’s consent for married women, and mandate a one-week waiting period before an abortion is performed.
Other proposals have included increasing the 2,000 ruble ($70) monthly government subsidy offered to pregnant women.
Late last year Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning abortion advertising.
The abortion ad ban was part of broader changes to Russia’s Federal Law on Advertising that tightened up many aspects of advertising seen as having a negative impact on the population, such as campaigns offering free drug samples if these samples contain narcotic or psychotropic substances, and restrictions on the advertising of traditional "folk medicine" practices.
Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute, pointed out that despite government incentives such as a baby bonus that offers the equivalent of $9,000 upon the birth of every child after the first, and calls from President Putin for families to have at least three children, abortion is still occurring in epidemic proportions.
"As long as society fails to recognize the value of human life, and wantonly destroys it in large numbers, it will be difficult to establish a new three-child norm. Abortion must cease being a way of life in Russia if her people are to survive," Mosher said.
Pro-life legislation aimed at rolling back Russia’s abortion culture has been strongly supported by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia proposed a series of measures on the Moscow Patriarchate’s website, urging the Ministry of Health and Social Development to make “preservation of pregnancy a priority task for the doctor” and discourage incentives for abortion.
The Russian patriarch also advocated state support for pro-motherhood media campaigns, and early on suggested setting up crisis pregnancy centers in every maternity hospital to help “lonely mothers in difficult life situations.”