Last week, on 22 November, the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitriy Medvedev, signed a draft law that will have a series of implications on Russian women’s access to SRHR, both positive and negative. "Basics of the protection of the health of the citizens of Russian Federation," as the law is entitled, went through three readings in the State Duma (lower house of Parliament) and was the subject of wide debate in Russian society with interventions from the Orthodox Church, civil society and academia, and was heavily criticized by the Head of the National Medical Chamber of the Russian Federation, Mr. Leonid Roshal. For its final reading, more than 300 amendments were presented, 109 of which were adopted.
The new law will affect Russian women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights in three ways:
Access to abortion:
First, as regards access to abortion, Article 56 § 3 of the new law introduces a new "silence period", ie. a mandatory waiting period before performing an abortion. According to the article 55 § 3, abortions conducted on a woman's request within first 12 weeks of pregnancy will require a waiting period of 48 hours in the case of pregnancy in the 4th-7th week or 11th-12th weeks, but not later than end of 12th week of pregnancy and with waiting period of 7 days in the case of the pregnancy of 8-9th weeks. The law also sets the provision for obtaining an abortion in Art 56 § 4 that reads: "Abortion is conducted on social grounds until 22 weeks of pregnancy and in case of medical need, irrespective of the duration of pregnancy” (social grounds are set by the Government of the Russian Federation).
Conscientious Objection of abortion providers
Additionally the law introduced the possibility of conscientious objection in the article 70 § 3 that states "the treating doctor in agreement with the relevant official (head) of the medical organisation (division of medical organisation) may refuse to follow the patient or his treatment and also inform in written form about this refusal to conduct an abortion if this refusal does not directly threaten the life of patient and the health of those around him. In the case of refusal of the treating doctor to follow and treat the patient and in the case of notice in written form about the refusal to conduct an abortion, the official (head) of the medical organisation (division of medical organisation) must organise a replacement of the treating doctor.”
Family Planning services
Regarding family planning, the law guarantees free family planning consultations (Art 51 § 1); free medical assistance during pregnancy, during delivery and post-pregnancy (Art 52 § 2); provision of nutrition for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers as well as children under 3 years old including through special nutrition delivery "points" (art 52 § 3), sets rules for assisted reproduction (Art 55). The law overall guarantees free medical assistance, allows the patient to choose the doctor and medical institution (once a year) as well as sets out unified standards of delivering medical assistance on the entire territory of the Russian Federation.
According to unofficial sources, only Members of the Unified Russia (ruling party) voted for the law (306 in favour, 123 against) in the State Duma. We are trying to clarify this with the Duma officials.
Many thanks to the colleagues at Russian Association on Population and Development and Centre for Reproductive Rights for providing necessary information.
For those interested, more information is available in the links provided below and in the document attached: