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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Women Lectured on Contraception

Abortion need no longer be the primary method of family planning in Russia, a New York feminist told about 50 Russian women activists and doctors at a symposium on women's reproductive health Monday.

To back up that statement, she brought a slew of birth control devices, family planning experts and doctors who will demonstrate U. S. abortion procedures and Norplant implants.

"Women in Russia must start taking control of their health care", Merle Hoffman, a pro-choice activist and president of Choices Women's Medical Center, told her audience.

Following a presentation about the New York center, Hoffman was inundated by the participants when she attempted to disperse condoms. Her well-dressed listeners surged toward her in a mass of outstretched arms and hands groping for the small plastic packets.

"I was amazed", said a breathless Hoffman later. She added that she was also amazed that the women were stunned by her remarks that they must take power of a system that affects their lives and bodies.

Hoffman said she became aware of the high abortion rate here through some Russian patients at the Choices Center several years ago.

"Many of them had had 15 or more abortions in Russia", said Hoffman. "But when I met a 36-year-old woman who had 35 abortions, I knew I had to come here. This is insane. The women here need to know that there are many options".

There are from 9 to 18 million abortions, depending on state statistics, performed annually in Russia, as compared to 1. 5 million in the United States.

Abortions have been the primary means of family planning in the former Soviet Union since they were legalized for the second time in 1955. Originally legalized in 1920, Joseph Stalin banned them in 1936 and ruled that both patients and doctors would be subject to criminal prosecution.

Hotfman also learned that many abortions in Russia are done without adequate pregnancy tests and often without anesthetics. Eight professionals were on hand Monday to discuss abortion procedures and the

importance of counseling for abortion patients both before and after the procedure.

Alia Bakhvalova, a sixth-year obstetrical student in Moscow, said she liked what she heard Monday. "It's important that women in Russia know that there are many birth control means that are much safer than abortion. I don't think that most of them know much about birth control, because it is not in our education".

She added that she attended an anti-abortion congress last week lead by Dr. Wendell Wilke, a nemesis of the pro-choice movement in the United States.

This Tuesday through Friday, Choices physicians will conduct 20 abortions a day at Hospital 53 in Moscow and insert a total of 15 Norplant patches in Russian patients to demonstrate the techniques to Russian doctors, Hoffman said.

The results of the week-long activities, Hoffman hopes, will increase awareness among women and doctors, broaden the feminist movement in Russia and lead to establishing joint pro-choice clinics much like the New York center, which she founded in 1971.