Monday, August 7, 2023

Banning Abortion will Please Russian Conservatives but Do Nothing to Help Country’s Demographic Problems

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 29 – Imposing restrictions on abortions or even totally banning them will please Russian conservatives who want to do everything in their power to preserve “traditional values;” but it will do little or nothing to help their country overcome its demographic disaster, according to Russian analysts.

            There are two basic reasons for that, they say. On the one hand, the state can only ban currently legal abortions; it can do little or nothing to prevent women from seeking illegal ones if legal ones are not available (

            And on the other hand, the decline in the number of births in the Russian Federation has occurred over precisely the same period as the decline in the number of abortions, an obvious indication that factors other than the availability of abortions are behind this change and other policies will have to be adopted if it is to be changed.

            Since the end of Soviet times, the number of abortions both absolutely and relative to the number of women in prime child-bearing age groups have declined. The total number of abortions fell from 3.5 million in 1992 to 411,000 in 2021, and the number per 1000 women between the ages of 15 and 49 declined from 94.7 to 12 over the same period.

            As other means of contraception became more widely available after the collapse of Soviet power, women used abortions less as part of their family planning strategies. Until 2007, there were more abortions in the Russian Federation than births; now, the number of abortions is less than 20 percent of the total number of live births.

            Despite this pattern, many Russian politicians and commentators continue to believe that restricting abortions will boost the number of births. But that isn’t the case either over time or among regions. If it were, births would increase more in federal subjects where restrictions are imposed but in fact the reverse is true.

            Sergey Zakharov, a scholar at the Moscow Institute of Demography of the Higher School of Economics, says that “the government must support the striving of families to have a desired child at a desired time and not to try to talk people out of abortions” or otherwise restrict their access to legal ones. Doing otherwise, he suggests, will be counterproductive.

            But he and other Russian experts say that one reason politicians believe that restricting abortion will boost birthrates is that in contrast to the first two decades after the end of Soviet times, there has not been a boost in other means of contraception in the last ten years. Consequently, they assume that restricting abortion will work as they hope.


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