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Duma committee drafts bill on cutting abortion rate

MOSCOW, April 22 (RIA Novosti) - Legislators in Russia's lower house of parliament have prepared a draft law that they hope will reduce the more than 1 million abortions performed in the country each year, a senior lawmaker said on Friday.

Yelena Mizulina, head of the State Duma committee for family, women and children, said current legislation only provided for criminal sentences in cases involving doctors who had not undergone special medical training to carry out abortions.

"The bill aims to create the conditions for a pregnant woman to opt for giving birth. We have public support but does the ruling party hear us?" said Mizulina, a member of the left centrist Just Russia party

She added that the committee was seeking to submit the bill to the Duma for consideration.

The new bill suggests that abortion stop being qualified as a medical service, which would allow doctors to refuse to perform the operation. The draft law also says monthly payments to pregnant women should be revised. At the moment, the figure is 2,000 rubles ($70) a month until birth.

The Duma health protection committee previously suggested that doctors who do the operations during the second half of a pregnancy be held criminally responsible. Mizulina said the new bill provided for both administrative and criminal punishments, depending on the situation.

"Doctors' consent to do such operations is not the only problem. There are social and legal reasons behind the woman's choice," Mizulina said, calling for a comprehensive approach to the issue.

Doctors have shown little enthusiasm about the new bill.

Gennady Sukhikh, director of the midwifery, gynecology and perinatology center of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, said he was against criminal punishment of doctors. He also said the bill, if adopted, would give rise to illegal abortions, which would result in higher death rates for pregnant women.

He called for discussions between the public and the medical community on the issue, warning that it could become a political or populist rallying cry ahead of the 2012 presidential elections.

According to the 2010 census, Russia's population has dropped from 145 million in 2002 to under 143 million, with the death rate continuing to exceed the birth rate despite government efforts to reverse the decline in population.

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