Staunton, January 22 – Ivan Belozertsev, head of Penza Oblast, has come up with his own solution to Russia’s demographic problems: he has told his staff to meet with women seeking an abortion and talk them out of it. If they fail, the governor says, they will be at risk of losing their jobs.
This new hands’ on approach to demography, one that goes far beyond what even some members of the Duma have proposed and that exceeds earlier efforts in Penza, has been reported by the Kasparov.ru portal which cites a press release that has been issued by the Penza Oblast government (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5C45E19B6A981).
Like many predominantly ethnic Russian regions, Penza suffers from demographic decline with far more deaths than births. One of the reasons the birthrate is so low is that Russian women frequently use abortions as their primary form of birth control. Officials in Penza have been trying to talk them out of that since at least 2011.
At that time, the governor’s predecessor went so far as to offer prizes to gynecologists who were able to convince women that they should give birth rather than have abortions, an effort that does not seem to have had a major impact on demographic trends in the region (sobkorr.org/material.php?id=4E6DFD1A097C7).
Now Belozertsev has taken this notion to a whole new level, not only encouraging officials of all kinds to meet with women but telling his staff that they will be at a real risk of unemployment if they do not succeed in convincing Russian women in the oblast to change their minds.
Not surprisingly, this policy has sparked mirth and outrage. In a commentary for Vzglyad, Anna Fedorova, the vice president of the Foundation for an Open New Democracy, for one, calls Belozertsev’s policy “insane” and “a crude interference” in the most intimate aspect of the personal lives of women (vz.ru/opinions/2019/1/21/960401.html).
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