Staunton, August 23 – Despite a dramatic decline in the number of abortions in the Russian Federation since 1991 and claims that it has overcome “the culture of abortion” as the primary means of birth control, nearly one third – some 29.3 percent – of Russian pregnancies still are being aborted.
In the new issue of Demograficheskoye Obozreniye,” Moscow researchers Viktoriya Sakevich and Boris Denisov ask “whether there is a basis for optimism” about abortion trends in Russia and suggest that the situation has improved dramatically since Soviet times but that much remains to be done.
The number of abortions in Russia fell from four million in the last year of Soviet power to 1,064,000 in 2012, the last year for which complete figures are available, the two demographers say. Thus, it appears that “’abortion culture’ as a means of regulating fertility is becoming a thing of the past.”
Declines in this overall number reflect not only more widespread use of contraceptives and other family planning measures, Sakevich and Denisov say, but also the declining number of women in the prime childbearing ages. The researchers note that the number of abortions in Russia is still very high compared to rates elsewhere, with 29.3 percent of pregnancies ending with an abortion.
Not only is this rate several times greater than in, for example, Sweden and Germany, but what is especially worrisome is that the largest share of abortions is found not among the youngest age cohorts as in other countries but rather among women in the prime child-bearing age group of 25 to 29.
Over the last 20 years, Sakevich and Denisov say, the number of abortions among women under than 20 has fallen 4.4. times per 1,000, from 69.7 to 15.7. Among those aged 20 to 34, the rate has fallen 3.4 times from 152.5 to 44.7 per 1,000.
As a result and also because of the government’s maternal capital program, the number of live births has exceeded the number of abortions in recent years. In 1990, there were 206 abortions for every 100 live births in the Russian Federation. In 2007, the ratio was 92 to 100; and in 2012, it was 56 abortions for every 100 live births.
At the present time, 69 percent of abortions in Russia are “medically legal,” they say, and as a result, the number of deaths from botched abortions has fallen dramatically from more than 195 in 1992 to only 13 in 2012. Thus, the demographers write, “mortality from abortions has been almost liquidated.”
But calls for restricting abortion rights, they argue, could reverse this positive trend and lead to more illegal abortions outside of clinics and more deaths. Moreover, Sakevich and Denisov argue, moves in that direction would do little to reverse declines in fertility rates among Russians.