Orthodox Christian lawmakers in Russia passed a resolution this week during a meeting at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, saying they'll push for a change to the country's Constitution that will state that "life begins at the moment of conception," paving the way for a ban on abortion, emergency contraception and IUDs, as well as criminal penalties for doctors who provide abortion care. It's another salvo in Russia's slowly escalating abortion wars, which are beginning to look more and more like ones we're mired in stateside.
Russian newspaper Izvestia reported on the meeting at Christ the Savior yesterday, and was shared in English by Russia Today this morning. About 400 state and federal lawmakers reportedly attended the meeting; according to RT, the resolution they passed refers to abortion as "murder." The site reports:
According to the resolution, any induced abortion is "murder" and must be banned. This also includes contraceptives "with an abortive function" – morning-after pills and intra-uterine devices – whose production, sale and use in Russia would also be banned. Members of the assembly quoted the state statistics agency, Rosstat, as stating that the number of Russian women who use abortive contraception is now about 9 million.
The document also suggests introducing criminal liability for doctors who perform abortions, for mothers who have them and also for anyone forcing or pressuring a woman to have an abortion. "Medical workers must always consider the [unborn] child as their second patient and make efforts, using all possibilities, to keep this child alive," the resolution states.
From the 1960s on, abortion has been widely available in Russia, and the country has had one of the highest abortion rates in the world, according to data from the United Nations (although it's dropped dramatically since the '90s). At the same time, there doesn't seem to be widespread use or awareness of contraception; one study by a Moscow University found that only 14 percent of women used birth control pills and 20 percent used IUDs, while the other women who said they were taking precautions against unwanted pregnancy were using less-effective forms of family planning like withdrawal and the rhythm method.
It might make sense, then, to launch a national education campaign on effective forms of birth control but that's... not what happened. Instead, in 2011 former Russian president and current prime minister Dmitry Medvedev passed a law restricting abortion advertising, making it "illegal to describe abortion as a safe medical procedure," according to the New York Times. (Abortion is 14 times safer than childbirth.)
The Orthodox Christian lobbyists pushing for a change to Russia's constitution claimed earlier this year that they've gathered 100,000 signatures on a petition seeking a total ban on abortions, enough to require the parliament to consider the proposal. According to RT, previous attempts to ban abortion have been rejected by Russian lawmakers, out of fear that it would lead to more illegal abortions and abandoned children.
A 2008 anti-abortion protest in downtown Moscow. The writing on the crosses, according to the Associated Press, alludes to "the various professions the unborn children might have achieved. The signs on the crosses at the bottom of the picture read, culture worker, left, and famous writer, right." Image via AP.