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25 / 07 / 2008 - Russian Government holds`Week without Abortions` to Halt Falling Birthrate
Krasnodar Convinces Women to Keep Their Unborn Babies
Officials in southern Russia's Krasnodar region have come as close to curtailing abortions as any government decree here in nearly five decades. As part of the region's "Day of Family Love and Happiness" - just one of a whole slew of similar approaches to upping the birthrate across the country - the local Health Department held a "Week without Abortions" this month, advising clinics to talk women into keeping their babies. According to official statistics, it worked.
Even though abortion has not been banned in Russia since 1955, local journalists from a Krasnodar television station misinterpreted the decree and claimed that a ban had been issued, sparking a brief debate. But Yelena Redko, deputy head of the local Health Department, assured The Moscow News that it was nothing of the sort.
Instead, the Krasnodar Health Department says, it was trying to educate women.
"Between July 1 and 7, all women's clinics and family planning centers held a thematic week called ‘Week without Abortions,'" read an official statement obtained by The Moscow News. As such, the week was harmless: women were given "consultations with family planning experts," posters were placed in clinics and videos were shown "informing about the hazards of abortion." State-sponsored family planning centers offered hotlines for pregnant women.
According to Redko, the advice brought results. "During the week, 875 women went to clinics to terminate their pregnancies, but thanks to the efforts of medical personnel (through personal conversations, promotional material, and publications) 338 women were convinced to go through with their pregnancies, which constitutes 38.6 percent," said the Health Department. Normally, the statement noted, of all the women who went to a clinic for an abortion, only 5-6 percent ended up going through with the pregnancy. A similar program held in the region in November managed to talk 217 women out of abortions.
"Of course, if the woman wants to have an abortion, we can't refuse her," Yelena Redko told The Moscow News in a telephone statement. "But many women come in for advice." Asked whether her department was planning to give this kind of advice on a regular basis, Redko said that they would hold the Week without Abortions next year as well, but did not elaborate on whether such "talks" would be held with women on a permanent basis.
"If the pregnancy is later in the term and there's no time to wait with an abortion, of course we do it," the Gazeta online daily quoted Lyudmila Toporova, a gynecologist at a local maternity ward, as saying. But if the term is 7-10 weeks and the woman has some time, we ask her to give it some thought. In any case, if the woman insists, we have no right to refuse her."
In a country where there are about 1.3 abortions for every live birth (the Krasnodar region is an exception, boasting a heartening statistic of 0.8 abortions for every birth, and a birthrate that grew by 9.7 percent), this highlighted just how far officials were from taking drastic measures to ban abortions. Earlier this year, Russia launched "Year of the Family," which encompasses a series of measures to promote family values and increase a birthrate that had fallen to critical levels over the last two decades.
Even so, apart from religious groups and various public organizations, there has been no official talk of a ban. In 2003, restrictions were placed on second trimester abortions, but these sparked little debate as well, since all but 7 percent of women who get abortions do so after the 12th week. In general, gynecologists still talk of abortion as the most common birth control method.
While Yelena Redko of the Krasnodar region health department could not name any similar educational efforts nationwide, state clinics are currently adopting a haphazard approach to curtailing abortions, focusing on the health effects. Maternity wards in Moscow boast detailed posters on the dangers of abortion, while some doctors selectively discourage abortions based on subjective reasons, without actually refusing them.
Source : Moscow News