Russian Orthodox Church calls for abortion restrictions

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The Russian Orthodox Church appealed to the Russian government to restrict women's rights to abortion to cut the country's sky-high abortion rates in a list of policy suggestions published Monday.

Abortions should not be covered by compulsory health insurance, unless the woman's life is in danger, the Church said in a list of suggestions published on its website and sent to the government ahead of a debate on family policy.

Women should be told of "all the negative consequences and risks" and should have a compulsory cooling-off period after agreeing to have an abortion, the Church said in its suggestions to improve family and child policies.

Representatives of so-called "traditional faiths," a term that in Russia usually refers to Orthodox Christianity, Judaism and Islam, should consult women at "crisis centres" in maternity hospitals, the Church suggested.

Abortion rates remain extremely high in Russia, due to factors including a lack of free contraceptives and a low take-up of the birth control pill. Abortions are provided for free by law.

In 2009, 1.29 million abortions were registered, against 1.76 million births, according to figures released by the state statistics agency, which do not include backstreet abortions.

The socially influential Russian Orthodox Church opposes abortion unless the woman's life is in danger.

Russia is battling a demographic crisis, with its population dropping by almost six million since 1993, and the government has tried to boost the birth rate by offering mothers cash payouts for the birth of each child.

Health and social development minister Tatyana Golikova in an interview last year warned that any ban on abortions would lead to more illegal abortions and said that policies should focus on improving support for mothers.

"Unfortunately in our country a ban on abortions could lead to more illegal abortions," she told the Kommersant business daily.

"Our aim is for women not to be afraid to keep the child and we have to create the conditions for this."

© 2011 AFP

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