May 28th 2011

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: Labor's backflip on asylum-seekers

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Abbott's inroads into Labor's heartland

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Comment on the 2011 federal Budget

ENERGY: Will Windsor and Abbott deliver mandated ethanol?

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: How the U.S. can emerge from the global slump

SRI LANKA: Australia silent over war crimes against Tamils

WAR ON TERROR: Al-Qaeda and Pakistan's nuclear weapons program

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Election in Egypt: litmus test for Arab Revolution

CHINA: How Beijing has handled dissidents and protesters

NATIONAL PARKS: Tony Burke's showdown with mountain cattlemen

ENVIRONMENT: Global warming, the latest evidence

POPULATION: Russia to restrict abortions to reverse birth decline

EUTHANASIA: Decisive reasons to reject legalised euthanasia

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: The ups and downs of SA's euthanasia debates


BOOK REVIEW: Hijacking the brain- how pornography works

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Russia to restrict abortions to reverse birth decline

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, May 28, 2011

A chill wind is blowing through Russia, even though summer is near. No, this is not climate change; it is the cold reality of demographics.

The birth rate in Russia has been below replacement level for so many years that Russia has experienced a population decline from 148.5 million people in 1995 to 143 million today, despite efforts by various governments to boost the birth rate.

Unofficial estimates indicate that there are nearly 4 million abortions per year in Russia and only 1.7 million live births; Russia is losing three-quarters of a million people a year and the nation’s current population is expected to fall to 112 million by 2050.

Abortion has become a pervasive form of birth-control, and the nation is experiencing worker and population shortages that are taking an economic toll. Law-makers in the Duma, the Russian parliament, are working on legislation they hope will cut the more than one million officially counted abortions taking place annually in the nation.

“The bill aims to create the conditions for a pregnant woman to opt for giving birth. We have public support, but does the ruling party hear us?” Yelena Mizulina, head of the state Duma committee for family, women and children, told the Russian state-owned international news agency, RIA Novosti.

The bill makes it so that abortion would no longer be qualified as a medical service under the nation’s government-run health system, thus allowing physicians to opt out of doing them. The measure would also increase the monthly payments to pregnant women from the current 2,000 rubles (US$70) a month until birth. The legislation could also make it illegal to do abortions in the second half of pregnancy.

In a speech in April, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pledged to raise the nation’s birthrate by up to 30 per cent in just three years. His plan calls for spending the equivalent of AUD$50 billion to encourage Russian families to have more children. Putin said that 1.5 trillion roubles will be invested in “demography projects”, to improve the average life expectancy and to boost the birth rate.

The Duma has also introduced a bill to restrict advertising for abortion. Anton Belyakov, author of the bill and deputy from the Just Russia Party faction, told journalists, “Russia’s abortion rate is unacceptable”.

The bill also obliges doctors to warn women who decided to have an abortion that “it may cause infertility, death or negatively affect physical and mental health”. According to Moscow News, the legislation has the support of three of Russia’s four major parties.

Russia has the highest rate of abortion in the world at 53 abortions per 1,000 women between 15 and 44, according to UN statistics.

The Duma’s health committee, according to its deputy chairman Sergei Kolesnikov, is also considering banning free-standing abortion clinics. Thereafter, the procedure could only be performed in hospitals. The Levada Centre, a Moscow-based independent research group, reports that, since 1998, Russians who say abortion is a moral issue have increased from 25 per cent to 35 per cent.

World Congress of Families director Larry Jacobs says that more than cash incentives and government benefits will be needed to raise Russia’s birth rate. The WCF will hold the world’s first demographic summit, entitled “Moscow Demographic Summit: Family and the Future of Humankind”, at the Russian State Social University (RSSU) during June 29-30 this year.

The RSSU is one of Russia’s largest public universities, with over 100,000 students, and is the nation’s leading institution for educating social workers.

Jacobs notes that the summit comes at a crucial time. “It’s not Russia alone that’s experiencing demographic winter,” Jacobs observed. “Worldwide, birthrates have declined by more than 50 per cent since the late 1960s. By the year 2050, there will be 248 million fewer children under 5-years-old in the world than there are today. This birth dearth will be one of the greatest challenges confronting humanity in the 21st century.”

The birth rate in the United States has also dipped slightly below replacement level, but the Democrat Party continues to be unrepentantly pro-abortion. In the Florida state legislature, an Afro-American woman and Democrat legislator, Daphne Campbell from Miami, was openly harassed, threatened and belittled when her own party viciously turned on her after she spoke and voted in favour of a pro-life bill allowing ultrasounds before abortions.

Campbell, wife and mother of five, is a qualified nurse. As she rose in passionate support for the pro-life bill, another representative, Scott Randolph, a Democrat from Orlando, whose assigned seat is next to Campbell’s, started tossing papers on her desk and threw her pen in the rubbish-bin apparently incensed that a fellow Democrat would support the bill.

Randolph, who has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and Equality Florida, told Campbell “You are a traitor.… I swear, you will not be re-elected. I will get an opponent.”

Campbell’s quick retort was “You have no right. God put me here.”

Babette Francis, B.Sc. (Hons), is national coordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.

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