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Russia adopts law meant to clamp down on abortion

By Sophia Kishkovsky
New York Times / July 16, 2011

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MOSCOW - President Dmitry Medvedev has signed into law the first steps designed to restrict abortion since the collapse of communism, the latest salvo in what is beginning to resemble the fierce divide over abortion in the United States.

The changes require abortion providers to devote 10 percent of any advertising to describing the dangers of abortion to a woman’s health, and the changes make it illegal to describe abortion as a safe medical procedure.

Tighter restrictions on abortion may follow after Parliament considers a separate health bill in the fall.

The changes were passed by the upper house of Parliament this month as an amendment to the law governing advertising and were signed by Medvedev on Monday. A summary of the changes, which take effect in 30 days, was posted Thursday on the Kremlin’s website.

The summary on the website said the new law “is directed on the whole towards protecting women’s health and makes it mandatory for advertising of medical services on the artificial termination of pregnancy to include warnings on the danger of this procedure for women’s health and the possible harmful consequences, including infertility.’’

In Soviet times, abortion was free and unrestricted after the late 1960s. But in recent years, contention over abortion has begun to sound like the debate in the United States.

Medvedev has made the fight against Russia’s falling birthrate and plunging population, now at just under 143 million, a feature of his presidency, offering incentives such as payouts for a third child and land plots to encourage women to give birth.

Official statistics placed the number of abortions at 1.3 million in 2009, a significant drop from the 1990s. Russia’s increasingly vocal antiabortion activists, some in Parliament, said it is perhaps many times higher, and Medvedev’s wife, Svetlana Medvedeva, has taken up the cause. Her organization, Foundation for Social and Cultural Initiatives, recently launched a nationwide campaign, “Give Me Life!’’ which it advertised on its website, in brochures, and other materials.

Several local governments supported the campaign, and state-run medical centers offered families and single women consultations to avoid abortion and lift the birthrate.

Meanwhile, Valery Draganov, a member of Parliament from United Russia, the pro-Kremlin party, reintroduced a legislative package for consideration in the lower house that would place strict limits on abortion.

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