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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49986. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049986. Epub 2012 Nov 30.

Divergent trends in abortion and birth control practices in belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

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Laboratory of Population Economics and Demography, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.



The last decade witnessed growing differences in abortion dynamics in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine despite demographic, social, and historical similarities of these nations. This paper investigates changes in birth control practices in the three countries and searches for an explanation of the diverging trends in abortion.


Official abortion and contraceptive use statistics, provided by national statistical agencies, were analysed. Respective laws and other legal documents were examined and compared between the three countries. To disclose inter-country differences in prevalence of the modern methods of contraception and its association with major demographic and social factors, an analysis of data from national sample surveys was performed, including binary logistic regression.


The growing gap in abortion rate in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine is a genuine phenomenon, not a statistical artefact. The examination of abortion and prevalence of contraception based on official statistics and three national sample surveys did not reveal any unambiguous factors that could explain differences in abortion dynamics in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. However, it is very likely that the cause of the inter-country discrepancies lies in contraceptive behavior itself, in adequacies of contraceptive knowledge and practices. Additionally, large differences in government policies, which are very important in shaping contraceptive practices of the population, were detected.


Since the end of the 1990s, the Russian government switched to archaic ideology in the area of reproductive health and family planning and neglects evidence-based arguments. Such an extreme turn in the governmental position is not observed in Belarus or Ukraine. This is an important factor contributing to the slowdown in the decrease of abortion rates in Russia.

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