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Abortion in Russia is currently legal on request up to the 12th week of pregnancy. In 1920, Russia became the first country in the world to allow abortion in all circumstances, but, over the course of the 20th century, the legality of abortion changed more than once, with a ban being enacted again from 1936 to 1954. Russia has the highest number of abortions per woman of child-bearing age in the world according to UN data.[1] However, in terms of the total number, China has reported that it has over 13 million annual abortions, far surpassing the 2.7 million annual abortions Russia has.[2], and India has an estimated 11 million though accurate data there is difficult.



Prior to the October Revolution of 1917, Russian law considered abortion to be homicide, and it was punishable by a 4 to 5 year jail term with the loss of civil rights. The punishment was reduced to 3 years in 1903. From then on, support grew for eliminating the punishment of women who had abortions, and for punishing only doctors. However, the old law effectively remained in force until November 18, 1920, when the Bolshevik government issued a Decree on Women’s Healthcare, which provided for free and on demand abortions for the first time in the world (soon followed by Iceland). The legalization reduced the mortality rate of abortions from 4% to 0.28%. [8]

On June 27, 1936 the Stalin government issued a decree that prohibited abortions, while increasing financial help to mothers, families with multiple children, expanding the availability of obstetrical services and childcare facilities, more strictly enforcing child support obligations, and providing for minor changes in the divorce law. Abortion was allowed only in exceptional cases, such as a severe threat to a woman’s life or health, or upon indication of debilitating hereditary diseases of the parents.

After Stalin’s death, the prosecution of women for abortions was stopped on August 5, 1954. On November 23, 1955, the ban on abortion was lifted, and abortions were allowed on request if performed in a medical institution. This resulted in a significant reduction in the number of women who died as a result of abortion but also lead to a significant increase in the overall incidence of abortion.[9]

Current law

According to the Basic Law of the Russian Federation on Citizens’ Healthcare (July 22, 1993), abortion can be performed on request up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, for social reasons up to 22 weeks, and for medical necessity and upon the woman’s consent at any point during pregnancy. Abortion can only be performed in licensed institutions (typically hospitals or women’s clinics) and by physicians who have specialized training.

According to the Criminal Code of Russia (article 123), the performance of an abortion by a person who does not have a medical degree and specialized training is punishable by fine of up to 80,000 RU; by a fine worth up to 6 months of the convicted's income; by community service from 100 to 240 hours; or by a jail term of 1 to 2 years. In cases when the illegal abortion resulted in the death of the pregnant woman, or caused significant harm to her health, the convicted faces a jail term of up to 5 years.


Despite a significant reduction in the abortion to birth ratio since the mid-1990s, the countries of the former Soviet Union maintain the highest rate of abortions in the world. In 2001, 1,320,000 children were born in Russia, while 1,800,000 abortions were performed. [2] In 2005, 1,600,000 abortions were registered in Russia; 20% of these involved young women under the age of majority.[3]

Abortion statistics were classified in the Soviet Union until the end of the 1980s. [10] During this period, the USSR had one of the highest abortion rates in the world. The abortion rate in the USSR peaked in 1964, when 5.6 million abortions were performed, the highest number in Russia’s history.[11] Nevertheless, the legalization of abortion did not fully eliminate criminal abortions. [E.A. Sadvokasova]


  1. (Russian)
  2. (Russian) Заявление главного акушера и гинеколога России, директора Научного центра акушерства и гинекологии Владимира Кулакова
  3. (Russian)
  4. Late consequences of abortion. (1981). British Medical Journal (Clinical Research Edition), 282 (6276), 1564—1565.
  5. (Russian) Последствия абортов: мнение ученых // Мир православия (перевод статьи с ZENIT.ORG — католического информационного агеснтва США)
  6. Abortion, Motherhood, and Mental Health: Medicalizing Reproduction in the United States and Great Britain (Book Review), British Medical Journal 2004; 328:1022 (24 April)
  7. Ellie Lee. Abortion, Motherhood, and Mental Health: Medicalizing Reproduction in the United States and Great Britain. ISBN 0-202-30681-X
  8. (Russian)
  9. (Russian) Оценка влияния абортов на семью и общество в статье «Матриархат в СССР»
  10. (Russian) Рассекреченная статистика числа абортов на 100 живорождений, 1960-2003 СССР-СНГ
  11. (Russian) Сайт «Демография России»
  12. (Russian)
  13. (Russian)
  14. (Russian)
  15. (Russian)
  16. (Russian)
  17. (Russian)

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