04/02/2008, 00.00
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Abortion in Russia, moral opposition on the rise

by Maria Anikina
Surveys by a research institute reveal a population divided between pro- and anti-abortion forces. A growing number of people are considering the moral and religious implications of the interruption of pregnancy.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The recent surveys on abortion conducted by the Russian "Levada Center" for sociological research have recorded a larger percentage of women who do not procure abortions because of moral issues connected to religion.

Strangely, the researchers at the centre did not pay any special attention to the statistics showing that since 1998, the "moral" argument has become more popular among those opposed to abortion, growing from 25% to 35%.

The belief that abortion is a sin against God is very widespread, especially among older people.  In fact, 51% of the population sample above the age of 55 said they believed that the voluntary interruption of pregnancy is a very grave sin, but the percentage of younger people who share the same belief is also significant: 27% of those 18-27, 30% of those 25-39, and 40% of those 40-54.

Nevertheless, the demographic situation in Russia continues to show alarming developments, although the information elaborated by the research center demonstrates that the number of involuntary interruptions of pregnancy practised over the last 10 years has remained the same overall.

According to the statistics gathered, Russian public opinion is divided between those opposed to abortion and those in favour. The criteria used in the research are based on age of the interviewees, their level of secularisation, and their perception of health risks.

The abortion rate is generally higher in the large urban centres.  Women with a high level of education - who constitute just a small fraction of the big city population - show a particular tendency to plan out their lives, to be more attentive and responsible, and for this reason the number of voluntary interruptions of pregnancy among them is low.  There has been a decline in support for a law that would prohibit abortion (from 21% in 1998 to 16% 2008), while the percentage of those in favour of the interruption of pregnancy has remained unchanged, at 70%.  But there has been an increase in the number of people who think it is just to prohibit abortion (8% in 1998; 15% in 2007) or to permit it only in cases of serious medical problems (20% in 2007; 13% in 1998).

The greatest concern among people who want to prohibit abortion concerns the health of women, both psychological and physical.  For many, in fact, the fear that after an interruption of pregnancy a woman might be unable to have more children and could suffer psycho-physical imbalances are the most frightening potential effects.

Finally, concerning premarital relations, among 65% of the Russian citizens interviewed AIDS is seen as the most serious risk in having sexual relations before marriage, while for the rest of the population the consequences can bring weaker nuclear families, sterility for women, a high number of abandoned children, and difficulties in the workplace.

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