President Vladimir Putin has urged the government to improve abortion prevention strategies in an effort to reduce the number of terminated pregnancies and offset Russia’s population decline.
Putinâ€™s order was made public days after Polandâ€™s top courtÂ deemedÂ abortions performed in cases of fetal defects to be unconstitutional. For Poland, which already had some of Europeâ€™s strictest abortion laws, the decision amounted to a near-total ban on the procedure, sparking massÂ protestsÂ in over 150 Polish cities.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and regional heads will be tasked with reassessing Russiaâ€™s abortion prevention strategies and developing mechanisms to increase funding for medical organizations that improve their abortion prevention rates, according to Putinâ€™sÂ orderÂ published Saturday.
Improving access to legal, psychological and medical assistance through the maternity insurance program is outlined in Putin’s order as a key measure expected to dissuade women from abortion.
Russia, which has one of the world’s highest abortion rates, hasÂ namedÂ abortion reduction as one of itsÂ key demographic policy priorities. In the past five years, pregnancy terminations have decreased by nearly 30%, Deputy Health Minister Oleg SalagaiÂ saidÂ Tuesday.
Russiaâ€™s efforts to improve abortion prevention have largely failed to revert its looming demographic crisis, however, with the countryâ€™s populationÂ predictedÂ to decline by 352,500 in 2020 compared to a decrease ofÂ 32,100 in 2019.
Russia has one of the worldâ€™s mostÂ liberalÂ abortion laws, with most procedures performed at no cost under the mandatory state health insurance program. Terminating a pregnancy isÂ allowedÂ up until the 12th week, with abortions at later stages only permitted if the pregnancy was a result of rape or for medical reasons.
The Russian Orthodox Church and conservative lawmakers have pushed for an end to state-funded abortions in recent years.
Womenâ€™s rights advocates haveÂ voicedÂ concern over Russiaâ€™s move toward tighter restrictions after the government introduced a mandatory waiting period between the abortion request and the procedure itself in 2011. Some Russian regions alsoÂ requireÂ women to undergo counseling with a priest or a psychologist before the procedure can be performed.
Russian women reported beingÂ deniedÂ access to free abortions during the coronavirus lockdown this spring when Russian clinics postponed scheduled medical procedures.
This article was originally published byÂ The Moscow Times.