11-11-2011, 04:07 PM
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Russia Restricts Abortions As Population Dips
Russia's parliament has adopted a controversial law restricting abortions in an attempt to tackle the country's population collapse.
The UN predicted that, by 2050, Russia's population will shrink by a fifth to 116 million.
Critics of the change in law said limiting women's choice is the wrong way to tackle the problem, in a country where women are almost twice as likely to have an abortion as a live birth.
Getting an abortion in Russia is not difficult. Sky News secretly filmed a Moscow clinic which admitted frequently performing illegal operations over the 12-week limit.
Posing as a woman seeking a termination at four months, Sky's producer Julia was told it would not be a problem. Anything was possible for an upfront fee of £100.
She was told it would be quick and offered no emotional support. She asked what the risks were. The doctor replied: "Honey, have you come here to get an abortion or to keep the baby?"
Julia asked if 16 weeks was the latest term they would perform. She was told: "No, it is not. You are not there first, you won't be the last. Come on, pull yourself together."
Illegal abortions count for 25% of all maternity-related deaths in Russia.
CCTV footage showed 30-year-old Gulzat Agenberdieva arriving for a late-term abortion at an illegal Moscow clinic.
Later, it showed clinic staff dumping her body after the procedure went fatally wrong. The doctor was sentenced to two years in jail.
A casual and often negligent attitude to termination is not unusual. The first country to legalise abortion also has the highest rate of it in the world.
But, in an attempt to reverse Russia's looming population crisis, the government is introducing changes in the law that activists argue could make it impossible for women to have a choice and worsen the problem of illegal abortions.
In Russia, people are dying nearly twice as fast as they are born. To try and curb this there will now be an enforced waiting period of up to a week before a woman can have an abortion.
During this time, she will have to see a government psychologist to try and change her mind.
The powerful Russian Orthodox Church wants stricter measures like making it mandatory for women to listen to the baby's heartbeat and obtain written consent from her husband or parents.
Activist Olga Lipovskaya had 10 abortions during Soviet times when she said it was used like contraception. She said the new law is wrong.
She said: "Any reasonable person who is capable of thinking would say this is not the way to solve the demographic problem in Russia.
"Guarantees from the state for accessible education, good healthcare, good social provision are the ways to solve the problem."
Malenkaya Mama in St Petersburg is one of the few state-run shelters in Russia for vulnerable young women who have chosen to keep their babies.
The teenage mums receive £80 a month from the state – they get food and clothing at the shelter here but only until they are 18. After that they will face a difficult world alone.
Sixteen-year-old Irina Soboleva told Sky: "The biggest problem is housing. To lower the number of abortions the government needs to support single mothers. Even just a room somewhere.
She said: "The authorities find laughable reasons not to help us. I don't understand why it's so hard to provide mum and baby with a small room to live."
With no sex education in schools, many girls are totally naive about what is happening to their bodies before it is too late.
It is argued that simply limiting choice is no way to solve a looming demographic disaster.