MOSCOW – Russia’s Parliament passed a bill July 1 imposing fines for illegal abortions, in a move hailed by local activists as a first step away from the country’s leading position in the world’s abortion rates.
The new law imposes a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles (148 USD) for the mother, 10,000 to 30,000 rubles (887 USD) for “officials” or responsible physicians, and 100,000 to 150,000 rubles (4,432 USD) for “legal entities,” meaning abortion facilities.
With between 800,000 and 1 million abortions a year, Russia has one of the highest rates of abortion in the world, after China, and activists say that much of this number is of abortions carried out illegally. Igor Beloborodov, PhD, of the World Pro-Family Coalition and head of the Department of Demography and Population of Russia’s Institute for Strategic Studies, explained to LifeSiteNews that the law will curtail those abortions carried out in contravention of rules that imposing waiting times for abortions based on the child’s gestational age.
According to changes made in Russian abortion legislation since 2012, Dr. Beloborodov said, the abortion rate has been reduced “based on the principle of informed consent,” which requires waiting times between 48 hours and a week, depending on the gestational age of the child.
“But in practice these rules were usually not observed because there was no responsibility for illegal abortion,” Beloborodov told LifeSiteNews.
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Beloborodov said that in an early version of the bill legislators from the Committee on Family, Women and Children had proposed even higher fines for abortion facilities, up to the equivalent of 15,000 to 30,000 USD, but “the size of the fine was significantly reduced.”
“Unfortunately, the abortion lobby is still very strong,” he added.
“This restricting of the abortion procedure was a result of a common struggle for life,” he said, that included the Orthodox Church, family-friendly members of Parliament – including Olga Batalina, Elena Mizulina, Olga Epifanova and Alexander Zhukov – and “a lot of pro-life NGOs especially St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation, lead by Nataliya Yakunina.”
The new law follows a bill passed in December last year banning abortion advertising, also supported by the Russian Orthodox Church.
According to the government’s most recent statistics, the abortion rate dropped from 1,501,594 in 2005 to 935,509 in 2012. Due to Soviet laws making abortion available almost without limits, the abortion rate peaked in the mid-1960s at over 70 percent of all pregnancies.
The legislative change comes on the heels of an effort by Christian groups to see abortion banned entirely.
Orthodox Christian activists have gathered over 100,000 signatures on a petition that asked the Russian Presidential Administration to criminalize abortion. The petition proposes the child’s right to life “from conception” and proposes a ban on abortifacient contraceptives such as the hormonal contraceptive pill, and a ban on the use of medical biotechnology using embryos as research subjects.
The Ministry of Health responded to the request by saying that an outright ban on abortion would only lead to an increase in illegal abortions. But Dmitry Tsorionov, the head of “God’s Will,” a Russian Orthodox social movement that launched the project, told Lente.ru that abortion is more dangerous to the life and health of women and in those countries where it is illegal maternal mortality is dropping.
His claim was backed by studies that have shown extremely low levels of maternal mortality and morbidity (pregnancy-related illness) in countries where abortion is outlawed or strictly limited. Most recently researchers at West Virginia University-Charleston and the University of North Carolina found that in the Republic of Ireland, before the country legalized abortion last year, was experiencing steadily dropping maternal mortality rates since 1968.
“Legal elective abortion is associated with higher rates of maternal mortality rates, stillbirth rates, and preterm birth. Cerebral palsy rates in Northern Ireland, at a prevalence rate for birth years 1981-2007 of 2.3 per 1,000 live births …are low,” the study said.
“In the Republic of Ireland, where abortion has always been illegal, the trend in maternal deaths over the time since 1968 compares favorably with that in England and Wales,” the researchers wrote. The study compares the maternal mortality rate in the UK with that of Ireland: at 6 per 100,000 in England and Wales compared to 3 in the Republic of Ireland.