Russian President Vladimir Putin upset a lot of Americans with his December 28 (feast of the Holy Innocents) ban on adoptions to the US — at the same time ordering his government to take a range of steps to make it easier for Russians to adopt orphans. The law took effect effect Jan. 1, leaving in legal limbo about 50 children who were in the final phases of adoption.
Why? Putin and officials have cited the deaths of 19 Russian children adopted in the United States in the past 13 years (that’s out of about 45,000), but it is also widely seen as retaliation at another level. The Wall Street Journal says:
The adoption ban was included in a package of measures the Kremlin pushed through parliament to retaliate for a new U.S. law aimed at punishing alleged Russian human-rights violators. That law was named for Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in prison after exposing what he said was a $230 million fraud perpetrated by senior Russian police officials. Russian officials insist his death was an accident.
But there’s yet another possibility: demography. Comments Paul Kengor on Catholic Exchange:
The reality is that Russia continues to hemorrhage population. Russia’s population is projected to plummet from 140 million to 104 million by 2050. And what are the chief causal factors? There are several, but the two biggest are abortion and contraception—which occur at astonishingly high levels. Putin has tried to reverse both.
Abortion has wreaked havoc on Russia since the Bolsheviks legalized it a century ago. Soviet communists were way ahead of American liberals. By the 1970s, when abortion was legalized in America, the Soviet Union was already witnessing a staggering 7.2 million abortions per year.
The Cold War ended in the 1990s, but Russia’s runaway rates of abortion—as well as contraception—did not.
In response, Vladimir Putin has implemented the first restrictions on abortion in Russia in almost 50 years, limiting abortions to within 12 weeks. He even initiated a National Fertility Day.
Unfortunately, none of this has really worked.
Of course, the best place for children to be is with their own parents, or with adoptive parents in their own country and culture — all other things being equal. But all other things are not; there are not many adoptive parents available in Russia. There were an estimated 700,000 orphans in 2010, and orphanages are often overcrowded.
One thing is certain: children should not be made pawns in any political or even demographic game.