Free abortions stir controversy among Russians
September 10, 1996
Web posted at: 10:45 p.m. EDT (0245 GMT)
From Correspondent Mike Hanna
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Every year, millions of Russian women undergo
A typical Russian woman will have between three and five
abortions in her lifetime, health officials say. Poor and
expensive contraceptive choices have made abortions an often
sad but relatively acceptable birth control method in Russian
But even in a society inured to the issue, recent legislation
has provoked deep controversy.
Russia's government is making free abortions available to
women who fall into several newly-defined categories, through
their twenty-second week of pregnancy.
The group includes: the homeless, those living beneath the
poverty line and registered refugees.
"Why are we doing this? Because such cases have become a
reality of life," said Russian deputy health minister Nikolay
Vaganov. "We cannot neglect them."
Among some of the poor, like 29-year-old Angela, the move has
been welcomed. She already has five children because she
says she could not afford an abortion back home in the
"You have to pay for abortion down there, and it's
expensive," she said.
Critics of the free abortions blame Russia's declining birth
rate on cheap abortions. In the past six months, twice as
many deaths as births have been recorded in Moscow.
But health officials deny that abortion has anything to do
with this, saying that in the past five years the number of
legal terminations has gone down by nearly 30 percent.
"Of course it's sad," said Vaganov. "The whole story is sad,
the number of abortions still being performed is sad,
mortality figures are sad...."
"The thing is that you can just see more of what used to be
hidden from the public eye" he said. "We are just trying not
to hide the new realities of life, and we aren't neglecting
the old ones."
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