April 17, 2024

Russians debate “postnatal abortion” for disabled

Two mothers fight tabloid journalist’s opinion

Svetlana Shtarkova and familyTwo Russian mothers have won the right to rebut a
journalist’s argument that handicapped children should be euthanased. Aleksandr
Nikonov, of the popular tabloid Speed-Info, wrote a column contending that
children with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities should be
killed so that they don’t suffer, in what he termed “post-natal abortion”.

Snezhana Mitina, mother of a 10-year-old son with Hunter’s
syndrome , and Svetlana Shtarkova, mother of a 3-year-old son with severe brain
damage, were outraged. They filed a complaint with the Russian Union of
Journalists which decided that Mr Nikonov’s words were extremist.

The two women say that many Russians share his ideas.
“The opinion expressed by the author is not unique; statistics show that
one-fourth of Russians share similar views,” Shtarkova told the
journalists’ union on February 2. “Complete strangers come up to me in the
street and tell me that I’m depraved and deserve my fate. Doctors and social
workers refuse to do their jobs, just because my child is severely

Mr Nikonov was unrepentant. He told the Radio Liberty
“If you want to bring up a child with Down syndrome, you can do it. But if you
don’t, you can euthanase him. Why is prenatal abortion legal, and postnatal
abortion is not?”

This incident underscores Russia’s reluctance to care
for its citizens with disabilities who are widely regarded as burdens for
society, says Radio Liberty.

“The issue is gaining traction as Russia faces a
severe population crisis brought on by a low birthrate and poor pediatric
health. Over the next two decades, Russia’s population is expected to shrink by
17 million people. Faced with such statistics, advocates of people with
disabilities say the country cannot afford to let prejudice stand in the way of
caring for the country’s estimated 15 million registered “invalids”
— adults and children suffering from a range of physical and mental ailments.”
~ Radio
Liberty, Feb 8


Michael Cook