Russia's Orthodox Church teamed with Conservative parliamentarians yesterday to push legislation that would radically restrict abortions in a nation struggling to cope with one of the world's lowest birthrates. The legislation would ban free abortions at government-run clinics and prohibit the sale of the morning-after pill without a prescription. Abortions for married women would require the permission of the husband, while teenage girls would need their parents' consent. A week's waiting period would also be introduced so women could consider their decision.
During the time of the Soviet Union, abortion laws were liberal, and unrestricted termination of pregnancy became virtually the only method of family planning. Russia's abortion rates are still among the world's highest—in 2004, Russia had the world's highest abortion rate of 53.7 per 100 women, according to a United Nations survey. As a result, their fertility rate is only 1.4 children per woman—far below the 2.1 needed to maintain the existing population. (Read more Russian Orthodox Church stories.)