A bill to ban abortion except if the mother’s life is in danger has taken the first step in Russia, a country where 90 percent of women over 30 have had at least one abortion, and more than 900,000 are still performed annually.
Meanwhile, Google, the search engine provider, has run afoul of Russia’s ban on advertising abortion, and could be charged.
Dimitry Baranov, president of Warriors for Life, called the abortion ban bill “a breakthrough in the protection of life,” while acknowledging that the exception, when there is “danger to the life of the mother,” is “fraught with some difficulty and can include just about anything. But the best option is not available now.”
Eugene Fedorov, a member of the ruling United Russian party caucus in the Russian Duma, or Parliament, presented the bill to Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev last month. This bill must be reviewed by health experts and a parliamentary health committee before Medvedev decides whether or not to submit it to the Duma, according to Alexey Fokov, also of Warriors for Life.
Even if Medvedev allows it to go forward, this does not mean he or the United Russian caucus will support it, Fokov told LifeSiteNews. “But I think his wife Svetlana is pro-life. She has organized some conferences, but I don’t think she is very tough.”
The “tough” position—a complete ban—is that of the pro-life movement and the Russian Orthodox Church, which commands at least the nominal support of a majority of Russians.
Fokov believes that as many as half of Russians oppose abortion but only 10 percent oppose it enough to want it banned. “It is a very personal issue for many. For women over 30 or 35, 90 to 95 percent have had abortions.” Many Russian women during the Soviet era had as many as nine abortions. Opposition therefore is highest among the young.
As for the Duma, no party is pro-life, while the socially conservative United Russia Party is divided, said Fokov. The health minister, Veronika Skvortsova, is pro-abortion, but the leadership, including President Vladimir Putin, have identified the nation’s dismal birthrate as a crucial problem. While strong government measures to encourage big families have arrested the decline in the nation’s birthrate, it has stabilized at well below the replacement level of just over two children per woman, and the population is falling by several hundred thousand a year.
“On the one hand,” said Baranov, “the authorities are concerned about the problems of demography. On the other hand, the authorities are afraid of any social unrest. They wonder what will make society more peaceful – a ban on abortion or a different solution?”
Already the government has set up pregnancy centers, restricted abortions to the first trimester and banned same-day abortions as well as advertising abortion services. It was this latter law, Warriors for Life reported this week, that Google Russia is being investigated for violating, by carrying ads and hyperlinks for two abortion clinics.
“No one is allowed to violate the prohibitions established by the legislation on a particular advertisement,” noted Irina Vasilenkova of the Federal Antimonopoly Office. The government issued an order to Google to cease carrying the ads and is considering charges.
There is disagreement among pro-life supporters over whether attempting to legislate an outright ban now, without strong public support, is a good idea. Alexey Komov, president of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchs’ Commission on the Family and the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood, told LifeSiteNews he believes that such an attempt should wait at least two years, by which time he hopes it would have the support of two thirds of the population.
The Warriors for Life, however, believe that there is no time like the present. “Abortion should be banned immediately,” said Baranov. “With public opinion, we must work, but we should not leave children's lives to opinion.”