Why Did Vladimir Putin Ban American Adoptions?

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Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin has sparked international outcry by banning adoptions of Russian children by American families. Putin made his move on December 28, the day of the Holy Innocents, immediately halting the departure of hundreds of Russian orphans about to board planes to a new life. It was a cruel, callous move.

No country adopts as many Russian children as America. There have been 60,000 adoptions by American couples since the collapse of the Soviet Union. That has now suddenly ended.

Why would Putin do this? The main reason, widely cited by the media, seems to be retaliation for a recent U.S. law aimed at Russian human-rights abuses. That’s no doubt a factor, but there may be more to the story. Consider:

The reality is that Russia continues to hemorrhage population. Russia’s population is projected to plummet from 140 million to 104 million by 2050. And what are the chief causal factors? There are several, but the two biggest are abortion and contraception—which occur at astonishingly high levels. Putin has tried to reverse both.

Russia dolls 1Abortion has wreaked havoc on Russia since the Bolsheviks legalized it a century ago. Soviet communists were way ahead of American liberals. By the 1970s, when abortion was legalized in America, the Soviet Union was already witnessing a staggering 7.2 million abortions per year.

The Cold War ended in the 1990s, but Russia’s runaway rates of abortion—as well as contraception—did not.

In response, Vladimir Putin has implemented the first restrictions on abortion in Russia in almost 50 years, limiting abortions to within 12 weeks. He even initiated a National Fertility Day.

Unfortunately, none of this has really worked.

And so, how might the adoption ban fit into this? Well, adopted Russians by foreigners—especially by Americans—means more Russians leaving Russia. By banning adoptions, Putin’s country can retain more Russians. There may be a measure of pure demographics and nationalism behind his decision.

If this is truly Vladimir Putin’s thinking, then we can’t rule out abortion and contraception as handmaidens to this horrible situation.

For Catholic Exchange dot com and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.

Dr. Paul Kengor


Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • Kuncice

    I was adopted from a German orphanage by an American couple and applaud the ban
    prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children. I collaborated with other
    “foreign” adoptees to create this video to showcase the human rights
    abuses embedded in international adoption.

    Peter Dodds

  • Peter Nyikos

    Would you mind posting some of those alleged abuses here, so they can be discussed properly?

    I went to the YouTube but did not want to turn on the sound because it would distract the rest of the family; but I did reply to the only person to have commented on it–he did it a month ago.

    Is it correct to assume that you agree with everything he said? he claimed adoption outside the ethnic group is genocide by international law. Here is how I replied:

    ‘What is the statute of international law and what does it say? I am
    aware that forcibly taking children away from their parents is against
    international law, and this is what was done to Aborigines. But the case
    of Russia is a case of parents giving up their children. It is a case
    of Russians not adopting because they don’t want children in the first
    place. This adoption ban was done [in Romania] because the Romanians did not want the
    shocking conditions in orphanages to become widely known.

  • In principle I believe that Putin has valid concerns here. He is a nationalist more than anything. I have never faulted him for taking actions against American Interests when such actions are in the interest of his own nation. That does not mean I support them, but merely that I will not accuse him of evil intentions because he seeks to advance the interests of his own people over the interests of others. That is the obligation of the leader of a nation.

    In this case he has recognized the danger that Western Europe and even the U.S. to some extent has refused to recognize. That abortion and contraception are agents which are a danger to civilization, in this case particularly Russian civilization. Russia has a negative population growth due to the practice of contraception and abortion. It would be unconscionable from his perspective to allow even more children to leave Russia, further reducing its population, through international adoption. It is in Russia’s interest to address this negative population problem. International adoptions are a part of it.

    The negative effects on individual children are another aspect of this problem. These effects concern both the environment in which the child will be raised and their economic well being. Economics are a big aspect of this. We cannot ignore the fact that International adoptions are the result of people in rich countries leveraging their wealth to procure children in poorer countries. There is a certain amount of moral risk associated with the practice because it has the potential to lead to all kinds of abuse. Even in the best case it communizes children, since only the rich (rich always being a subjective term) can afford to engage in the practice, and somewhere along the line someone is making money on the prospect.

  • Eugene Makarov

    “No country adopts as many Russian children as America” (Except Russia itself). “Unfortunately, none of this has really worked” (Except that it has and now we are no longer loosing population). “By banning adoptions, Putin’s country can retain more Russians” (2011 Americans adopted around 600, in a country of 140 mil, that hardly makes a dent). Perhaps real reason are the abuse of Russian children in American families (Child pornography, violence etc) and the contempt with which such atrocities are treated by American institutions.

  • hockeylew

    My husband has the great fortune of actually attending classes with Prof. Kengor, and now we find our family stuck in this ban, so this perspective is of keen interest to us.

    There are definitely population forces at work, and perhaps Putin and his contemporaries are truly worried about the well-being of these children in America. However, in our case and in the case of so many others, the children with special needs who have very little hope in Russian society of ever being adopted suffer greatly in the institutions in which they will spend the rest of their lives. To sacrifice these children to these horrible places in order to keep population numbers up is cruel at best. For most of these cases, America is the best and only option as so many countries with socialized health care programs are not able to adopt children with special needs based on their countries’ policies.

    Between the sheer number of abortions and the treatment of orphans, it is truly heartbreaking to see how little regard this society has for the gift of life.