This post was written for Global Voice Online and published on April 29, 2013. It is mostly based on Facebook discussions that took place after "Svoboda" MPs proposed the bill and reflect a variety of opinions on the issue, although most comments on Facebook have been rather critical.
In early April, three MPs from the opposition political force “Svoboda” ["Freedom"] registered a bill that would ban abortions in Ukraine. The only exceptions foreseen in the proposal included cases when the pregnancy threatened a woman’s life, when a fetus had grave pathologies, and when the pregnancy was proven to have resulted from rape. This initiative comes only a year since the Ukrainian lawmakers’ last attempt to ban abortions.
In the explanatory note to the bill, the authors of the proposal justified the need for such restrictions with the following arguments [uk]:
Despite the declining tendency, the level of abortions in Ukraine remains among the highest in Europe and amounts to 21.1 abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age; 45.8 abortions per 100 pregnancies or 84 abortions per 100 births.[…]It must be noted, that [when the previous regulations on abortions were adopted] the following fact was not taken into consideration: according to a series of scientific medical researches, a child that is being aborted experiences the same level of suffering as a grown up person who is being tortured to death. Moreover, abortions have negative consequences on the psychological and physical health of all those involved.[…]In most [regions] of Ukraine, the number of deaths is nearly three times the number of births. During the last 20 years, the population of Ukraine has decreased by 5 million people (from 52 to 47 million). If such demographic dynamics persist, in a few years immigrants, mostly from Asia, would constitute the majority of the Ukrainian people.One of the major reasons behind such discontenting demographic tendencies is the legality of abortions.
The lawmakers also stressed the negative attitude toward abortions shared [ru] by all Christian churches of Ukraine.
The proposal has proven quite controversial and sparked active discussions both online and offline.
Many commentators immediately focused on the issue of proving the occurrence of rape in court. Reporters of a major Ukrainian TV channel, TSN, noted that only 10 percent of rape charges become court cases and asked Olexandr Sych, one of the bill’s authors, what a woman should do if she became pregnant but failed to prove the fact of rape. The MP replied [uk]:
I do not work in the law enforcement and do not know what a woman can or cannot prove… But first of all, [she] should lead such a lifestyle as to not be exposed to the risk of rape. In particular, [she should not be] drinking alcohol beverages in a questionable company.
This excerpt was widely circulated online and discussed on Facebook by regular users, journalistsand activists.
User Serhiy Masliuchenko wrote [uk]:
This law is yet another attempt of the state and the bureaucrats to interfere with an individual’s life… when [they] lack brains to do something about the economy, science, education, ecology, [they] invent laws like this one […]
User Vasyl Martyuk disagreed [uk]:
I do not consider “Svoboda” to be a cure-for-all, but I support this bill! Ukraine as one of the leaders in the number of abortions – this is terrible!
Facebook user Andrey Anthony wrote [ru]:
Before proposing such laws [you] should restore the order in the country. How can you propose such initiatives in a state where there aren’t even any roads, no rule of law, and endless corruption around? […]
User Elena Bondarenko wrote [ru]:
[This is just] another opportunity for gynecologists to [make a fortune from] underground abortions!!! Are there too few newborns found in dumpsters? Too few in [orphanages]? IDIOTS!! Create social and economic conditions for parenthood, not restrictions!!!
User Marianna Goncharova commented [ru]:
This is one of those cases where gender-sensitive approach is needed. Why is this issue being raised by men? […]
User Vitaliy Diachenko mocked the proposal [uk]:
Svoboda should adopt another law where their members are prohibited from having sex, unless they obtain a written document certifying that the sole intention behind this sexual act is [procreation].
User Yevgeniy Ikhelzon wondered [ru] why so little public reaction followed the introduction of the bill:
[What a] paradox, people who resent Muslims making women wear headscarves, calmly accept deputies attempting to ban abortions […].
Journalist Iryna Slavinska criticized the proposal [uk]:
[…] to fight the high numbers of unwanted pregnancies, sex education should be introduced in schools and there must be places where condoms and oral contraceptives are disseminated free of charge, instead of putting a ban on abortions.
Many users addressed the moral and ethical aspects of abortions. In particular, such a discussion took place on the Facebook page of a physician and activist Evgeny Komarovsky.
User Yulia Zheleznova wrote [ru]:
Those commenting here, unfortunately, have not convinced me otherwise, but only strengthened my previously held convictions. Regrettably, in our modern society there are so many women who do not consider not only the morals aspects of abortions, but even the elementary [issues] of their own health. […] There are no arguments to justify murder. Full stop.
Adding to the same discussion, user Olga Shandra wrote [ru]:
I think abortion is a choice of every individual woman, [based on] her moral and ethical principles, and definitely not the MPs, psychologists, public moralizers and so on.
User Enela Adonieva wrote [ru]:
I am against abortions. But a woman should have a choice. And it is not to be made by politicians.
Currently, abortions in Ukraine are legal until the 12th week of pregnancy (the 22nd week in emergency cases). Ukraine is one of the leading countries in Europe in the annual number of abortions, although there is a clear downward tendency. “Abortion tourism” from the neighboring countries where the laws are more restrictive, such as Poland, has also been documented.