In 1955, Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, reconstituted legalized abortion. By 1958, there were 5 million abortions per year in the Soviet Union. (This contradicted Margaret Sanger’s optimistic prediction that “neither abortions nor contraception will be necessary or desired” once a “functioning communistic society” was in full bloom in the Soviet Union.) By 1965, abortions peaked at 8.2 million, dwarfing the worst years in America post-Roe v. Wade. By 1970, some 3,000 full-time abortion doctors were performing roughly 7.2 million abortions per year. By the 1980s, Soviet citizens comprised 5-6 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s abortions.
The Cold War and communism ended in Russia in the 1990s, but the runaway abortion rates did not. Those rates continued into the Putin era, with the election of Vladimir Putin in 2000. An illuminating article in the Washington Post in February 2003 reported that 13 percent of Russian couples are infertile, with more on the rise. “In nearly three out of four cases,” said the article, “infertility is attributed to the woman, typically because of complications from one or more abortions.” The Russian Health Ministry reported 1.7 abortions for every live birth—which is actually an improvement from previous decades, but only because contraception is being more widely used. Either way, it adds up to a decline in population.
In response, Vladimir Putin has taken major measures to try to stem this tide. In 2003, he implemented the first restrictions on abortion in Russia in almost 50 years, limiting abortions to within 12 weeks of gestation. Exemptions were allowed only for rape or the imprisonment, death, or severe disability of the husband.
Remarkably, Putin’s Russia has even gone so far as to initiate a National Fertility Day, aimed at getting the culture to produce more Russians.
And so, how might the adoption ban fit into this? Well, adopted Russians by foreigners—especially Americans, who adopt more Russians than any other country—means more Russians leaving Russia. By banning adoptions, Putin’s country can retain more Russians. There may be a measure of pure Russian demographics and nationalism behind this decision.
In fact, the adoption ban was championed in the Russian legislature by the nationalistic United Russia party, even before it got to Putin. And it’s quite telling that Putin has responded to his ban on American adoptions with measures intended to boost adoptions internally by native Russians. He promises a presidential decree to “modify the support mechanisms for orphaned children.”
Thus, overall, Putin’s adoption ban has two “benefits,” in his mind: 1) it retaliates against the U.S. Magnitsky Act; and 2) it retains more Russians in Russia.
That’s classic Putin—and a tragedy for many Americans and many Russian children who will likely remain orphans.
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of the book, “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.” His other books include "The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism" and "Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century."
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