Discussion of forced termination of pregnancy in Kazan
According to Anatoly Pogasy, the Abbot of the Church of Saint Andrew in Kazan, his parishioner Alice was the victim of a forced termination. At a press conference on this subject, he said “She is an orphan, never knew her parents, grew up in a children’s home, then went to a boarding school. Now she is studying at a vocational school. She has a room in a communal flat and she is an independent person. She receives a pension and a scholarship.” Pogasy said that when Boarding School No 11 discovered the 19 year old girl’s pregnancy, there was “pressure” on her from all sides by the “psychologist, psychiatrist, gynaecologist, lawyer and the headmaster of the boarding school.” Pupils from orphanages are “usually obedient and dependent.” However, the girl said that she would not have an abortion. The priest claims that when Alice was in her fifth month of pregnancy, she was taken to hospital and given an injection. The next day, she gave birth prematurely. The Abbot does not know whether the baby died before or after birth. He was buried in the local cemetery.
Sergei Knyazkin, member of the Union of Russian Journalists and Chairman of the Committee of Human Rights of the Republic of Tatarstan, has suggested that “it is possible that staff at the boarding school believed that Alice would not be able to cope with motherhood.” In his turn, Mihail Trepashkin, lawyer and head of the Department of Public Reception of the Russian Public Organisation ‘Committee against Corruption’ has reminded people that, by law, those who grew up in an orphanage have the right to state accommodation. He said that if they have a baby, they can claim bigger accommodation. This is one of the reasons why government officials try to prevent those who grew up in orphanages from having children, said the lawyer.
Trepashkin said that an abortion requires the written consent of the woman. Article 36 ‘Termination of Pregnancy’ in the ‘Fundamentals of Russian Federation Legislation on Health Care, 22nd July 1993 No5487-1’ reads “Every woman has the right to make a decision about motherhood. An abortion can be performed at the request of the woman in the first twelve weeks, due to social issues in the first twenty-two weeks and for health reasons at any time during the pregnancy with the consent of the woman… The list of medical and social conditions that may lead to an abortion are determined by the Federal Executive Authority of the Russian Federation.”
Also, according to Decree No736 issued 2nd December 2007 by Russia’s Ministry of Health and Social Development, “The list includes severe cases of mental disorders where a resolution is needed by a committee of medics.” In addition, while in many countries decisions on forced termination on medical grounds are taken by a court, in Russia they are often made by officials and doctors, who take no responsibility for their actions. There was no court involvement in Alice’s case, nor a decision about her incapability.
Alice has all the rights of a Russian citizen under the law. There is Article 123 ‘Illegal abortion’ in the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, but according to the article a case can only be brought to trial if the termination procedure was performed by unqualified medics. Trepashkin is convinced that if the baby dies after birth as a result of a forced termination, then it is murder. Such a case, he suggests, should be investigated by the public prosecutor. Russia has one of the highest rates of abortion in the world (three million every year, with “outpatient” abortions making up 12% of them), said Trepashkin. According to statistics, 260 Russians die from abortions every year, while almost half a million have complications, resulting in infertility. In addition, 20% of babies born to women who have had an abortion in the past have serious physical or mental disabilities.
Boris Altshuler, head of ‘Rights of the Child’ and a member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, said in an interview with an ASI correspondent that if the events described by Pogasy took place it is a “criminal act” which would be difficult to prove. The only witness is Alice herself, and it is doubtful that she will be able to confirm that she was taken to the hospital for a termination rather than for her “safety”, as will be claimed by staff at the boarding school. Nevertheless, if everything happened as Pogasy described, the incident needs to be investigated. Also, the girl may file a lawsuit for compensation for moral damage. In the event of a successful outcome she would be financially independent and able to raise not one but four or five children. Boris Altshuler suggested that it would be appropriate to hire strong human rights campaigners and lawyers as representatives in the litigation case, for example the Kazan Human Rights Centre which is part of the Association of Human Rights Organisations ‘Agora’. In addition, he has said that abortion in Russia is not uncommon amongst those who grew up in orphanages and they are often pressured by government officials. When asked by the ASI correspondent whether he knows of any cases where orphanage staff or doctors have been brought to trial, Altshuler said no. He added: “We need to set a precedent.”