Experts: 64 Percent of Russian Pregnancies End in Abortion
Published: September 30, 2008 (Issue # 1412)
The number of infertile women in Russia is growing by 200,000 to 250,000 each year, with the main cause being complications from abortions, Marina Tarasova, deputy head of the St. Petersburg Reseach Institute For Gynecology and Obstetrics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said on Monday.
Speaking at an international conference highlighting new methods of oral contraception, Tarasova warned that by the end of 2007 there were already more than 5.5 million infertile couples in Russia.
The low birth rate remains one of the key reasons behind Russia’s ongoing demographic crisis. According to official statistics, every fourth teenage girl in Russia has some form of gynecological ailment or reproductive health disorder.
Each year in Russia, more than 64 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, while in Western European countries the level is below 25 percent. By comparison, there are 10 to 15 abortions per 100 pregnancies in the U.K. and 5 or 6 per 100 in the Netherlands.
One in ten women who undergo an abortion in Russia is below 18 years of age, doctors say. Gynecological disease rates for teenage girls in 15-17 age group, have jumped by an alarming 30 percent in the last five years.
Olga Kurbatova, a researcher at the Institute of General Genetics, said that two major reasons contribute to the high abortion rate: Russians’ traditional risk-taking attitude to their own health and the unavailability of effective birth-control pills to most Russian women due to their relatively high price. Birth control remains traditionally a task for women in Russia, she added.
The best way to reduce the number of abortions and children living without parental care in the country is to develop a culture of family planning, and particularly to instill the habit of using contraceptives.
Doctors admit, however, that most Russian women avoid using contraception, especially birth-control pills, because of widespread prejudice and fear of side effects. In the meantime, abortion remains a common method of birth control.
The Russian government has been struggling to advertise family values and has campaigned for citizens to have more children. This year was officially designated “The Year of the Family.”
According to official statistics, only 40 percent of pregnancies are planned. However, one in ten planned pregnancies ends up in a miscarriage.
“Over the past five years, female infertility in Russia has increased by 14 percent, and over 1.5 million Russians need advanced medical technology to become pregnant and maintain a healthy pregnancy,” Tarasova said.
Some experts believe introducing obligatory high fees for abortions would help and encourage more women to use regular contraception.
Abortions are currently free for Russian citizens at all state clinics.
At the same time, infertility treatments are expensive and far beyond what average Russian families can afford. Skeptics say, however, that paid-for abortions, however high the fee, would not help to increase the birth rate.
Russians marry early, but are also often quick to divorce, in comparison with citizens of countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, according to a recent UNICEF report.
Kurbatova said early marriages that are attempts to legitimize sexual relations between emotionally immature and socially and economically dependent young people are prone to quick breakups, and children born in these unstable unions often become an undesirable burden for parents.
The UNICEF study also found that the share of children deprived of parental care in Russia is the largest among the surveyed countries: More than 420,000 — or one in 70 — children under 17 live in children’s homes, orphanages and boarding schools.