Alarming News

August 28, 2005

Abortion should be rare. Can we agree on that?

Commenter Jay sent me a link a few days ago about the staggering number of abortions in Russia. How staggering? They now have more abortions than births. Ivan quotes the article’s explanation as partly financial: ‘Careers traditionally favored by Russian women, such as in education and medicine, no longer pay a decent salary.’ No longer? C’mon. My mother was teacher and my father was a doctor in Russia, I know that these professions never paid a decent salary.

Ambivablog has a corresponding post about how lightly some women in America take abortion. I think attitude goes a long way to explain what’s going on in Russia. Sure, there are circumstances, such as financial or emotional considerations, that may lead so many Russian women to have abortions but I wonder what role plain acceptance plays in that culture.

True story: I was 17 and over my friend’s place. Her mom was hanging out with us as we discussed another girl we knew having a child. Her mom said ‘why didn’t she have an abortion? What is it with girls these days that they think their child is the special child that should be born when they themselves are so young? There will be other pregnancies, why can’t they just wait? I had 5 abortions before having _____, and she’s had two already.’ (’She’ being her daughter, my 17-year old friend).

Whoa dude. TMI.

Since then, I’ve heard open, frank abortion discussion from Russian women I barely know: ‘Yeah, I had one and then I got pregnant again right after that so I had another one.’ ‘No, she decided to get an abortion and wait until after he gets the promotion.’ ‘If we stay in NY I’ll keep it, but I’m not moving to Miami and having a baby in the next year.’ Russians are the only people I’ve heard actually be pro-abortion and unapologetically so.

So that’s my take. A culture where abortion is totally ok and not at all stigmatized is a culture that will end up encouraging abortion. Maybe there are people who don’t think that’s so bad, but even at my most militantly pro-choice, I couldn’t imagine that perspective.