the authorities have chosen a strategy centered on combating abortions.
In early November, regional deputies from Mordovia passed
a law prohibiting inclining women to terminate a pregnancy. The term “inclining” encompasses various actions such as persuasion, offers, bribery, deception, “putting forward other demands” and providing information deemed “propaganda” of abortion.
After this, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), urged
the Duma to ban private clinics from performing abortions, since their operation may “undermine the government’s efforts aimed at raising the birth rate.” Curiously, Kirill condemned abortion not as a sin, but as a negative demographic factor. He also praised Mordovia’s new law and added that he hoped
that this initiative would be “supported in other regions and at the federal level.”
According to Kirill, doctors often incline women to get abortions, and sometimes for material reasons. “In Russia, there is indeed a problem with the population. It’s a vast country, and the population is simply insufficient, not to mention the economic aspect,” added the ROC head.
Experts emphasize that banning abortions does not actually lead to increased birth rates. Demographer Alexei Raksha mentioned
a few cases from the US where there was a positive impact, but cautioned that it was temporary.
“There are no other examples of any impact of abortions on birth rates. There are negative examples, such as Poland, where the birth rate decreased and the existing ban on abortions was further hardened,” Raksha said. “In other countries, we do not have any examples of the effect of allowing or prohibiting abortions [on birth rates] in the 21st century or even in the last decade of the 20th century.”
In addition to abortion policy, the Russian authorities are also cracking down on homosexual relations. In November, the Supreme Court will consider
a case to declare the “international LGBT social movement” an “extremist organization.” This means that even displaying LGBTQ+ symbols could result in up to four years in jail.
In July, the Duma passed
a law prohibiting gender transition. Transgender individuals in Russia are now barred from adopting children and serving as guardians. Their marriages also may be annulled.
The host of the Meduza
podcast “Chto sluchilos?” (“What happened?”), Vladislav Gorin, said
that the Russian government has made a “deal” with the ROC and, as a result, is pushing pro-life policies.
“I think, specifically on this issue, he [Vladimir Putin] is not the main culprit. All these initiatives, and the patriarch has spoken about it repeatedly, are like a deal. The ROC supported the special military operation, as it [the war in Ukraine] is called in the rhetoric of the Russian Federation... and in exchange its [the Church’s] agenda is basically being advanced, and the ROC is getting more integrated into the administrative system, receiving more resources and more publicity,” said Gorin.
Gorin also compared the methods used by the Russian government to fight abortions with what the Republican Party has done in the US. Russian political scientist Alexander Kynev also wrote
on his Facebook page that the new pro-life rhetoric from the government is aimed at “mobilizing” the conservative electorate, though he considers this “foolishness.”
“Firstly, this electorate is insignificant. Secondly, it is already pro-government. Instead, it will ultimately hit the support for the authorities among women and youth. Our women are quite emancipated, and a majority of them are not ready to ‘stay at home and have children,’“ said Kynev.
The Russian feminist journal Wonderzine talked
to women who have had abortions in Russia. They shared that the new laws terrified them.
“I said I want to be a mom, but I do not want to be a mom in Russia, and these laws only amplify the feeling of insecurity for myself and my child,” said one of the interviewed women, who chose to remain anonymous.