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Family planning and induced abortion in the USSR: basic health and demographic characteristics.

Popov AA. Stud Fam Plann. 1991 Nov-Dec.


In 1988, the USSR Ministry of Public Health published official statistics on abortion for the first time in 60 years. Using the official data published in 1988 and unofficial statistics from a variety of independent sources, this report attempts to describe some of the basic features of fertility regulation in the USSR. Induced abortion is the main method of fertility regulation throughout the country, and a high proportion of induced abortions are unregistered and performed illegally. The availability and use of modern contraceptives is low; among those who practice contraception, traditional methods predominate. The official data leave much to be desired in the way of accuracy, reliability, and completeness. However, it is clear that the level of induced abortion is higher in the USSR than in any other country in the world.


Official and unofficial data clearly indicate a low availability and use of modern contraceptives in the USSR, and induced abortion's centrality in fertility regulation. The level of induced abortion is, in fact, higher than that observed in any other country in the world, and is the main method of regulating fertility in the country. Wide regional differentials in the extent of induced abortion exist throughout the USSR, soaring to 770 abortions/100 births in the central, rural areas of the Russian Soviet Federal socialist Republic. Overall for the USSR, the number of officially registered abortions/1,000 women reached a high of 244.5 in 1956, and a low of 86.6 in 1988 over the period 1954-1988. Decreased levels are due in part to a changing age structure of women and increased menstrual regulations through the 1980s. 6.5 million official abortions occurred in 1988, constituting 10-20% of the world annual total. Not accounting for estimations that illegal abortions may account for up to 70% of total induced abortions in the USSR, this official level is nonetheless 2-10 times higher than those observed in Western and Eastern European countries. The USSR has both realized fertility transition and a stable, low total fertility rate of 2.4 due to the widespread use of abortion. These finding emerge from analysis of data from a variety of unofficial sources and the 1988 Ministry of Public Health officially published abortion statistics for the period 1960-88. Information on abortions in women under age 17, abortion mortality, and the health consequences of abortion is not, however, officially published. Despite inadequacies in data accuracy, reliability, and completeness, the validity of this broad trend and the predominant use of traditional methods among contraceptors can not be disputed.


1792676 [Indexed for MEDLINE]

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