All eyes are on Russia and Ukraine, but another tragedy is taking place in both countries that has largely been ignored until now: these two countries have some of the highest abortion rates in the world.
Recent statistics show that in Russia, 53.7 abortions occur annually per one-thousand women. In Ukraine that number is 27.5. It is notable that despite Russia’s population being more than three times larger than Ukraine’s (their populations being 145.8 million and 43.3 million respectively), both still clock in with higher abortion rates than communist countries such as Cuba and China.
Why are so many abortions occurring in this part of the world, and is anything being done to end these killings? A look at the prevalence of abortion throughout recent history in Eastern Europe can help us answer this question.
In 1920, Soviet Russia, which would later become the Soviet Union and include Ukraine, became the first nation to legalize abortion widely through a “Decree on Women’s Health.” This was well before the United States or other European countries made similar moves to legalize abortion. Though Soviet leaders viewed abortion to be an “evil,” they also recognized pregnancy and childbirth as a barrier to their socialist agenda to use women to expand the working class. This propelled the government to make it easier for women to obtain abortions, with their decree permitting women to obtain abortions from doctors completely “free of charge.” This coincided with women entering the work force in waves, and a drastic decrease in the Soviet birthrate from 45 births per one-thousand women in 1927 to 30 in 1935.
Enter Joseph Stalin in 1936 who, upon consolidating power, recognized the decreasing birthrate as a potential long-term threat to Russia’s population and national survival. Hardly a pro-life humanitarian, Stalin declared the killing of unborn children by abortion illegal, and vastly increased childcare and maternity resources to meet the needs of mothers and babies and encourage women to have children. Unfortunately, two years after Stalin died in 1955, Soviet leaders again became fixated on socialist aspirations, and reinstated legal access to abortion.
When the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991, an opportunity rose for both Russia and Ukraine to update abortion jurisprudence. Today, Ukraine continues to allow late-term abortions up to 28 weeks gestation, when science proves babies feel excruciating pain while undergoing abortion. Russia too allows abortion, with a 12-week gestational limit on the procedure. This places Russia on the same plane as the vast majority of European nations that ban painful late-term abortions. Public funding for abortion is available in both of these countries. It’s also notable that the eastern European region has an extremely high prevalence of sex-selective abortions performed solely because one sex is desired over another. Baby girls are almost universally the victims of these abortions.
Public opinion and worldview also impact abortion trends. In Russia, the motivation to decrease abortions, as it was during Stalin’s reign, is their consistent decline in population, and a reactionary desire to bolster their birthrate and overall societal strength. (Notably, China is also working to boost its birthrate). In 2021, Russian authorities announced new guidelines to increase resources for pregnant mothers, which include stipulations that women considering abortion should “undergo considerations with a doctor, with a focus on increasing the likelihood that they reject the procedure.” The heavy influence of the conservative Russian Orthodox Church and pro-life groups has also contributed to the recent ramping up of efforts to limit abortions in Russia.
Meanwhile, Ukraine serves as an abortion hub in Eastern Europe, and has “widespread social acceptance” in the country. Women often travel from neighboring countries such as Poland to obtain abortions in Ukraine. Though it’s almost impossible to find the exact number of abortions being outsourced to Ukraine, abortions there are much cheaper than in all neighboring countries, and throughout Europe, with abortions costing as little as 65 euros in some cases. In addition, the radically pro-abortion United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is one of the top aid providers to Ukraine, providing $4.7 million in abortion funding in 2020 alone. The UNFPA and other pro-abortion groups claim we are undergoing “a reproductive health crisis for millions,” as the current conflict has forced them to press pause on their agenda to promote widespread abortion and contraception in Ukraine. Exploiting global crises to advance radical population control ideology is a favorite tactic of UNFPA and other groups, who similarly manipulated the COVID-19 pandemic to militarize abortion campaigns abroad.
The ongoing Russian invasion begs the question of how two territories could be entrenched in such a devastating conflict during the modern era. One explanation: societies crumble when they fail to protect innocent lives at the ground level. Until abortion is eradicated in Russia, Ukraine, and throughout the world, there can never be true peace. We pray and hope that day will come.