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Russia Piles on Tighter Abortion Restrictions

The Center for Reproductive Rights is calling on the Russian government to reverse a recent string of unnecessary and dangerous abortion restrictions. Most recently, the Russian government has eliminated all social grounds for abortion between 12 and 22 weeks of pregnancy, with the exception of rape. Before this restriction was enacted, women could get an abortion between 12 and 22 weeks for any of four “social” reasons laid out by the government, including the death of the woman’s husband during the pregnancy. (Under current law, women can obtain an abortion without restriction as to reason until the 12th week of the pregnancy; and abortions can be performed for medical reasons at any point during pregnancy).

These new restrictions are the most recent in a sweeping attack on Russian women’s rights, dignity, autonomy, and health. In November, the Russian parliament adopted a law that imposes mandatory waiting periods for abortions performed during the first 12 weeks and permits health care providers to refuse women abortions on the grounds of conscience, without appropriate safeguards to ensure their access to legal abortion services.

All of these recent barriers to abortion services have been driven by the misperception that restricting women’s access to legal abortion services will reverse the Russian Federation’s declining birth rate. These measures will do nothing of the kind, and instead severely infringe on Russian women’s fundamental rights—threatening their health, and undermining their rights to privacy, physical integrity and autonomy, confidentiality, health, and nondiscrimination—all of which are guaranteed by the Russian Constitution and Russia’s international human rights obligations. Evidence has shown that there is no connection between restrictions on access to reproductive health services and increased birth rates. Women who need abortion will seek this service whether it is legal or not—and when it is not legal, they will do so jeopardizing their health and lives.