.- The Russian government has enacted a law requiring abortion ads to carry health warnings about the procedure. Lawmakers say that the ads presently mislead the public by creating the impression that abortion is a simple surgery with no health risks.
The new amendments require that warnings about the dangers, including loss of fertility, should occupy at minimum 10 percent of each advertisement, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports.
President Dimitry Medvedev signed the bill into law on July 14.
Russia has one of the worldâs highest abortion rates. More than one million women have abortions every year. In 2007 there were 1.5 million abortions, a number almost equal to the number of children born.
Parliament member Viktor Zvagelsky said the Russian abortion situation was âdepressing,â RIA said.
Besides the human costs involved, the high abortion rate also contributes to a worsening demographic crisis.
Russiaâs population dropped from 145 million in 2002 to under 143 million, the 2010 census found. The death rate continues to exceed the birth rate despite government efforts to encourage Russians to have more children.
The United Nations predicts that by 2050 Russiaâs population will have declined to 116 million, a decrease of almost 20 percent. It says overcoming racism and taking in more migrants could help the country boost its population, Reuters reports.
Health experts say key factors in Russiaâs population decline are poor diet, heavy drinking by men, a heroin abuse-related HIV/AIDS epidemic and a high number of violent deaths.
The Orthodox Church has increasing influence and has called for tougher restrictions on abortion.
The parliament may soon pass a new bill that could limit access to abortion procedures and toughen punishments for doctors who carry out illegal abortions. It would also allow mothers of newborns who are unwilling or unable to keep their babies to leave them anonymously in special adoption centers.
The Soviet Union was the first country in the world to legalize abortion on demand in 1920. Joseph Stalin outlawed abortion from 1936 until his death in 1954 to try to boost the birth rate.
The communist Soviet Union encouraged new births with prizes and money, but Russiaâs population has steadily declined since the USSRâs breakup in 1991.