Russia’s parliament adopted a law Friday limiting abortions but rejected even tougher restrictions backed by the country’s conservative Orthodox Church.
Health officials say Russia’s abortion rates are among the world’s highest, contributing to a fertility rate of only 1.4 children per woman–far below the 2.1 needed to maintain the existing population. The country’s birth rate has become a serious concern for Russia as it fights to stem a steep population decline.
The Health Ministry says more than a million pregnancies are terminated in Russia annually, although abortion critics say the statistics don’t include private clinics and the real number amounts to six million a year.
The law passed Friday limits abortions to 12 weeks of pregnancy, except for women who say they can’t afford a child, who may have an abortion up to 22 weeks. The law also stipulates a mandatory waiting period of two to seven days before the procedure to allow a woman to reconsider her decision.