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Russian MPs Propose Ending Public Health Coverage For Abortion

A bill submitted to the Duma would require women to pay out of their own pockets for abortions and restrict the procedure to public healthcare facilities.

Last updated on July 3, 2018, at 1:16 p.m. ET

Posted on May 20, 2015, at 7:00 a.m. ET

A Moscow clinic advertises its services on Instagram, including cardiology, dental cleaning, treatment for infertility and abortion.

A bill submitted to Russia's parliament would drop public health insurance coverage for abortion except in cases where a woman's life or health is at risk. The measure would also make it illegal for private clinics to provide abortion services, punishable by fines of up to $50,500.

Co-sponsor Elena Mizulina, the MP heading the committee on family, women's and children's issues and an architect of Russia's ban on "gay propaganda," took to Twitter to promote the bill.

"Abortion is not a therapeutic or health-improving procedure and is not an inevitable need," she tweeted. "A program providing free medical care should be focused first on saving people's lives and health."

Mizulina, who has positioned herself as an advocate for traditional family values, said the measures were necessary to protect women from unscrupulous private healthcare clinics and proposed that the savings in the state budget be "redirected to support pregnant women in difficult life situations."

"Any woman can have an abortion for an additional payment in a state health care facility," she tweeted.

Soviet abortion rates were among the highest in the world due to limited access to contraception and fell as birth control options expanded in the 1990s. Anti-abortion campaigns have increased in recent years with the growing influence of the Orthodox church in Russian society.

An explanatory memo to the bill, put forward on Tuesday, calls abortion a "national threat" in the context of Russia's demographic crisis. To boost the country's birth rate, Russian President Vladimir Putin has provided financial incentives encouraging couples to have larger families.

"The three-child family should become the norm in Russia," Putin has said.

"They were born third..." is the tagline for a campaign highlighting famous Russians, including poet Anna Akhmatova (pictured here) and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Abortion rights supporters had their own message for Mizulina: "Have abortions — don't give birth to MPs!"

"In St. Petersburg a series of one-person pickets for #abortionrights have begun in opposition to three anti-abortion bills introduced by MPs today"

Two other bills submitted on Tuesday would restrict the sale of medical abortion pills to licensed government health institutions and require healthcare facilities to offer free fetal ultrasounds before referring women for abortion services.

Bills must pass three "readings" in the Russian parliament and be signed by the president to become law.