In the decades that followed, the Soviet Union had one of the world’s highest abortion rates, with millions of abortions performed each year.
Official figures suggest that since the turn of the millennium, the number has fallen, with around 450,000 abortions formally recorded in 2020 in a country of 144 million people.
But these statistics cover only municipal or federal medical institutions offering mostly free surgical abortions. Commercial clinics providing medical abortions are thought to under-report their activities, meaning that, while the number of recorded surgical abortions is decreasing, chemical abortions are increasing.
In major cities such as St. Petersburg, which has a population of almost five million, and the capital, Moscow, which has almost 12 million residents, pro-lifers believe that the majority of abortions are medical and not reported to official bodies.
One of Fokin’s colleagues, Anna Fenina, oversaw the creation of an APR group on the popular Russian social media network VKontakte, while Fokin launched a website, peredumala.ru.
“In 2018, we published the first video on YouTube with APR instructions in Russian,” he recalled. “We were very surprised by the number of visitors to our website and groups, requests, and views of the video. We had 20,000-30,000 views and about 2,000 visitors per year.”
Fokin said that the response convinced the group that there was a high demand for APR in the Russian-speaking world, which extends far beyond the borders of Russia itself.
Typically, the group’s clients get in touch after seeking information about how to stop the effects of mifepristone using the search engines Yandex and Google or social media platforms such as VKontakte, Facebook, and Instagram.
“After watching the video [on the group’s YouTube channel] or reading the site, most women don’t need our direct advice and consult their local gynecologists,” Fokin explained. “Under MD supervision, they start progesterone therapy.”
“Some women contact our coordinator, Anna, or our gynecologist on a hotline on WhatsApp and Viber. The hotline number is available at our site and our groups.”
Fokin stressed that he and his colleagues always encourage clients to consult with their family doctors or OB-GYNs before starting progesterone therapy.
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“After completion of the course of progesterone therapy, many women go back with gratitude to us for providing the APR technique,” he said.
“We are very happy that the APR protocol gives so many women a second chance and the opportunity to correct the mistake.”
Abortion advocates and pro-choice media have repeatedly attacked APR, claiming that it is “unproven” and “unethical.”
Fokin said that he had never encountered such criticisms in Russia, where the procedure is relatively new.
But the doctor said that if he were practicing medicine in the U.S., he would assure critics that APR is “absolutely ethical, highly efficient, and safe.”
“Mifepristone induces chemical ‘miscarriage.’ It is the mifepristone, which blocks the natural development of pregnancy and kills babies, that is unethical. Mifepristone is a legalized poison,” he argued.