Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning abortion advertising. Some members of the Duma (the Russian state assembly), are talking about going even further and banning the procedure itself. The Russian Orthodox Church, whose numbers are swelling with converts and “reverts,” is weighing in as well. One Orthodox prelate called abortion a “mutiny against God.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.
This is an amazing turn about in a country which has long been known for its tragically high abortion rate. Until recently, the average woman in Russia could expect to have seven abortions over her lifetime. Even The New York Times, no bastion of pro-life sentiment, has been compelled to acknowledge that Russia’s high abortion rate was damaging the health and fertility of Russian women. As the paper noted in a 2003 editorial, “Now the Russian government is attempting to slow the abortion rate. It is an admirable goal, given the toll that multiple abortions have taken on the health and fertility of Russia’s women.” Not to mention the toll that abortion has taken on the unborn, and on the population as a whole.
Abortion was forced on the Russian people by the Bolsheviks (the Russian communist party under Lenin), who upon coming to power in 1920 legalized abortion up to birth without any restrictions. Their goal was to destroy the family by encouraging women to get abortions, get out of the home and into the workforce. Russia was the first country in the world to declare war on the unborn in this way. Of course, with its purges, mass executions, and Gulag it warred on the unborn in other ways as well.
In fact, it was the early Bolsheviks who developed the suction abortion machine that is still in use in abortion clinics today. They actually developed two versions. The first was the electric suction abortion machine used in abortion clinics in the U.S. and other countries. The second was the manual vacuum aspirator, a hand-held and operated abortion machine that is used in less developed countries in places where no electric power is available.
PRI has played a role in helping to turn Russia back to life. I participated in the first Demographic Summit at the Russian State Social University in Moscow in May, 2011. We talked with senior Russian leaders about the need to protect life. Not long thereafter, a law was passed banning abortion of unborn babies older than 12 weeks. It also mandated a waiting period of 2-7 days for those wanting an abortion, and required that anyone advertising abortion services include a warning to the effect that “abortion is hazardous to a woman’s health.” Now, of course, advertising of any kind has been banned.
Taken individually, each of the laws put in place by the Russian government has a fairly small demographic impact. The Russian government, for example, pays a one-time baby bonus of $13,000 to the parents of every newborn. According to Russian demographer Igor Beloborodov, however, this generous bonus has only convinced 8 percent of couples of reproductive age to consider having another child.
The cumulative effect of all of the pro-life, pro-natal policies taken to date is far more significant. While there are still, according to the Russian Health Ministry, 1.7 abortions for every live birth in the country, that ratio is shrinking as the birth rate climbs and abortion becomes gradually less common.
As a result of the adoption of enlightened policies to protect the sanctity of human life, Russia’s population decline has been virtually halted, and the country has been put on a more stable demographic course.
Russia’s demographic winter is not yet over, but there are signs of a spring thaw.