Russia Enacts Limit on Abortion

In September, Russia enacted its first restriction on abortion in almost 50 years.

The new law limits the circumstances under which women can have an abortion between the 12th and 22nd week of gestation. Prior the law, there were a wide variety of circumstances under which women could legitimately seek abortions during that period, but now there are only four. According to the BBC they are,

  • rape
  • imprisonment
  • death or severe disability of husband
  • court ruling stripping woman of parental rights

According to official Russian statistics, only about 7 percent of women who have abortions in that country have them between the 12th and 22nd week of pregnancy but some abortion supporters claim that official statistics only record about half the abortions that take place.

Official statistics show a sharp decline in the number of abortions since the collapse of the Soviet Union. From a high of 4.6 million abortions in 1988, the total fell to 1.78 million in 2002.

Abortion supporters in Russia fear that this is simply the first step in policies that will become ever more restrictive of abortions in that country. Russian Family Planning Association director Ingra Grebesheva told the BBC, “The resolution is the first steps toward an attack on the rights of women.”

Some Russian health officials, however, characterize the move as an effort to reduce health problems related to the extraordinarily high rate of abortion that occurred during the Soviet era. A spokesman for the Russian Health Ministry told the Christian Science Monitor,

Artificial termination of pregnancy after week 12 is fraught with grave consequences for a woman’s health. Abortions account for 30 percent of maternal mortality in Russia. It has been decided to reduce these dangers.


Russia turns spotlight on abortion. The BBC, September 16, 2003

Russia begins to reconsider wide use of abortion. Fred Weir, Christian Science Monitor, August 28, 2003.

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