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.

An Obligation to Abort

I thought American courts were weird, but the BBC reports that France’s highest appeals court has upheld the principle that families of handicapped children can sue doctors for failing to detect birth defects in utero and giving the mother the opportunity to have an abortion.

Last year a severely retarded boy in France was awarded damages on the grounds that had it not been for a doctor’s error, his mother would have chosen to abort him, so, in effect, the doctor’s negligence is to blame from the boy’s birth defects.

This is an insane legal principle that would seem to lead to even more bizarre outcomes.

For example, if a doctor can be said to have harmed retarded child by failing to detect his birth defect so that his mother might have aborted him, it’s not much of a leap to suing on behalf of a retarded child whose mother never bothered to have her fetus screened for birth defects.

Or what about a woman who knows that her child will be born retarded but chooses to carry him to term anyway? The sort of logic used in this case strongly implies that the woman is committing a tort against her child.

Think about this applied to genetic diseases. Some people in my family suffer from Huntington’s disease (quick summary — if you’ve got it, you’ll die in a very unpleasant way by your mid-40s). Many people whose parents are Huntington carriers never get tested for the disease; they don’t want to know. If such a person has a baby who is born with the disease, is that negligence?

What about parents who choose to have children even though they will have a high risk of passing on sickle cell anemia or Tay-Sachs?

There simply is no right not to be born and trying to invent such a right leads quickly to a number of absurdities.

FDA vs. Women’s Health Again

Feminists in the United States
waged a decade-long battle against right wing activists to bring an important
medical technology to the United States only to experience years of foot
dragging from the Clinton administration which recently announced it still
won’t allow women access to a drug that has been available in Europe for
12 years.

The drug, of course, is RU-486
and induces an abortion 95.5 percent of the time when taken within the
first 49 days of pregnancy. Originally developed by Hoechst AG, the drug
first went on sale in France in 1988.

Unfortunately anti-abortion
activists actively campaigned to keep the drug from being available in
the United States. Promising to retaliate against Hoechst AG if the drug
were sold in the United States, the drug company refused to allow Roussel
Uclaf — which held RU-486’s marketing rights for the United States —
to market the drug here.

The anti-abortion groups were
aided by Congress and the Bush administration. In 1989 the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration banned the import of RU-486 for personal use. U.S.
Customs seized a prescription of RU-486 from an American citizen brought
to the United States after a trip to Europe and the Supreme Court refused
to hear the pregnant woman’s appeal of the seizure, allowing the FDA ban
to stand.

But feminists thought that
would all change with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992. In an effort
to court feminist voters, candidate Clinton pledged his support for bringing
RU-486 to this country and after the election the FDA announced that it
could review and approve RU-486 in as little as six months. FDA Commissioner
David Kessler wrote to Roussel Uclaf and encouraged the company to submit
the drug for approval.

Unfortunately Hoechst AG and
Roussel Uclaf still were resistant to selling the drug in the United States,
but agreed to transfer the marketing rights to the nonprofit Population
Council. Finally, on May 16, 1994 the Population Council was granted the
U.S. patent rights to RU-486 and clinical trials began in October 1994.
And almost six years later the drug is still not available in the
United States (so much for that six month speedy approval the Clinton
FDA promised.)

All of the studies conducted
so far indicate the drug is safe and effective, yet the FDA still refuses
to grant it final approval. Just last week, the FDA announced that it
still is not ready to approve the drug, saying that it had concerns about
the manufacturing and labeling of the drug, which is pretty much the same
thing the FDA said in a 1996 letter.

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman
hit the nail on the head when she said, “We think it’s appalling that
for 10 years the world’s most industrialized nation has not had access
to this drug that would benefit women.”

This is a classic example of
the idiocy of the FDA. Although in the 1950s or 1960s, U.S. drug approval
processes might have been said to be superior to Europe’s, today the techniques
for distinguishing between safe and unsafe medications are well known
and practiced by all Western industrial nations. A much better policy
would be to allow any drug approved for sale in Europe to be sold in the
United States with a warning that the drug has been reviewed by European
regulatory agencies but not the U.S. FDA.

Why not let women choose for
themselves what to do with their bodies? Or are we to assume that the
same woman able to decide whether or not to abort a fetus is simply incapable
of making a decision about whether or not to take a drug that has been
approved an in use in Europe for more than a decade?

abortion pill falls short of FDA requirements
. Fox News, February
21, 2000.

The Fight To
Make RU-486 Available To U.S. Women
. From The Feminist Majority Foundation.

The Power to Regulate Is the Power to Destroy

For decades free market
advocates argued that the runaway regulatory state threatened people’s
freedom by excessively regulating almost every aspect of life. And for
years liberals and those on the Left generally dismissed such concerns
as mere pro-business propaganda. Now, though, conservative pro-life legislators
are turning the tables and it is the liberals turn to preach against noxious

So far this year more than
a dozen bills have been introduced in state legislatures seeking to apply
the sort of excessively detailed, hard-to-comply-with regulations that
apply to most businesses to abortion clinics . According to the Center
for Reproductive Law and Policy, laws creating new regulations and reporting
requirements for abortion clinics were introduced in Arizona, Arkansas,
California, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska,
Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia. What sort of regulations would these bills

In February, Louisiana Gov.
Mike Foster called for unannounced inspections of abortion clinics following
a television report on unsanitary conditions at a Baton Rouge abortion
clinic. Some of the bills attempt to specify rules for lawn care the abortion
clinics must follow while others dictate the widths of doors or set minimum
staffing requirements that would be very expensive for most clinics to
meet. Additionally almost all of the bills add numerous additional reporting

The Family Research Council,
a pro-life group, acted as if it was under the influence of Ralph Nader
earlier in the year when it called for Congress to hold public hearings
on the safety of abortions. The Family Research Council also wants abortion
clinics to keep better post-operation track of women who have abortions.
This despite the fact that only 0.3 women die per 100,000 abortion procedures
and the risk of major complications for abortion procedures is less than
one percent according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. How long will it
be until the conservative FRC demands a national registry of women receiving
abortion services?

As CPRLP staff attorney Bonnie
Scott Jones summed up the real purpose of the regulations: “This is clearly
a way to very seriously hinder women’s access to abortion by imposing
laws that on the surface seem innocuous.” Those last two words “seems
innocuous” highlights the problem that liberals will face defending clinics
from onerous regulation. For decades consumer advocates have essentially
told the American people that all regulation is “innocuous” and those
who oppose such regulations are motivated by greed and a coarse attitude
toward the safety, health or happiness of others. Now conservative pro-life
groups have come up with a method to use that weapon against abortion

And the pro-life groups using
this tact should be ashamed. The FRC joins a long list of groups such
as Common Cause that, when it was unable to convince people based on the
merits of the argument, turned to the heavy hand of government regulation
to enforce its will and restrict choice for others.

Hounding to death a legitimate
business through execessive regulation is never admirable whether done
for a liberal or conservative cause.