Hospitals in regions across Russia temporarily halt abortions as part of a pro-life campaign spearheaded by the prime minister's wife
Regional branches of Russia’s Health Ministry and maternity hospitals across the country have been enforcing temporary “moratoriums” on abortion services, as part of a campaign called “Give Me Life!” The project has been organized for the past several years by the Foundation for Social and Cultural Initiatives, whose president is none other than Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The foundation told the newspaper Kommersant that its campaign is expressly “educational,” stressing that it doesn’t advocate the suspension of access to abortion, but many health officials seem to be unaware of this caveat.
Between July 31 and August 3, hospitals in Russia's Primorsky Territory imposed a temporary ban on abortion, calling the period “Days of Silence.” The region’s chief OB-GYN, Evgeniya Shutka, told Kommersant that the policy was meant to “protect unborn children and promote family values,” adding that this was the fifth time the region took part in the campaign. Svetlana Sagaidachnaya, the head doctor at a maternity ward in Vladivostok, told Kommersant that these temporary abortion bans “emphasize [patients’] need for greater care about their own health, and reminds them about the responsibility that men and women should bear for their decisions and actions.” “The Days of Silence aren’t for restrictions but second thoughts — that’s the main point,” she explained.
In Yakutia, local Health Ministry officials say they will implement a temporary abortion ban later this year at a new prenatal center, after limitations on abortion rights at other facilities in years past failed to lower the number of terminated pregnancies in the region.
In the Ryazan region, psychologists counsel women and work with students to “orient them toward family values” ahead of Russia’s Day of Family, Love, and Faithfulness (observed when Russian Orthodox Christians celebrate the patrons of marriage). The holiday is on July 8, and all week long (from July 9 to 15) abortions are not performed at local hospitals.
Svetlana Medvedeva, the president of the Foundation for Social and Cultural Initiatives, which orchestrates the “Give Me Life!” campaign, argues that the organization’s activities are intended to improve Russia’s “demographic and social climate.” The foundation says it organizes the “Give Me Life!” campaign in collaboration with the Russian Health Ministry, but neither group endorses the temporary abortion bans often implemented by the project’s participants.
Federal officials reportedly mailed out letters to regional health offices, urging hospitals to join the “Give Me Life!” campaign, but the memo described it as a purely educational effort and said nothing about suspending access to abortions, according to Kommersant.
The Health Ministry’s chief OB-GYN, Leila Adamyan, told Kommersant that “days of silence” have been in place since 2011, when Russian lawmakers amended the regulations on abortion procedures, requiring a brief waiting period (between two and seven days) before women seeking an abortion can undergo the procedure. During this period, patients meet with gynecologists, see an ultrasound of their baby, hear its heartbeat, and speak to psychologists, Adamyan explained, insisting that this policy isn’t supposed to affect operations at maternity wards. Women in Russia are legally permitted to terminate their pregnancies before week 12.