Russia ranks second in the world behind Romania in the number of abortions per capita, Vladimir Kulakov, the head of the Scientific Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology, said at a news conference.
Girls in Russia under 18 account for every tenth abortion, he said. Doctors say the use of contraception is less widespread in Russia than in the West.
Of some 38 million women of childbearing age, about 6 million are infertile, and medical authorities consider abortions a major cause of infertility, Kulakov said.
He said about half the women who bear children in Russia do not get enough nourishment or vitamins during pregnancy, and that 58.8 percent of all newborns last year were born with illnesses.
Federal programs to provide pregnant women with additional food and vitamins have been thwarted by a lack of funds. Financial problems have also stalled use of new medical technologies that would help high-risk expectant mothers, Kulakov said.
"Budget spending on health protection is increasing year after year, but is clearly insufficient," he said.
The 1991 Soviet collapse and the ensuing economic turmoil has led to the disintegration of the Soviet-era state health care system — a key factor behind Russia's population decline. According to the State Statistics Committee's latest estimate, Russia's population has declined by about 4 million to 143.4 million since 1989.
Health statistics have improved in recent years as the Russian economy has registered several successive years of growth.
The infant mortality dropped from 19.3 deaths per every 1,000 babies under age 1 in 1993, to 14.6 last year, said Larisa Gavrilova, a deputy chief of the maternity department of the Russian Health Ministry. That was still twice as high as in the United States, where 6.9 out of every 1,000 infants died before their first birthday in 2000.
The number of women who died during delivery also decreased from 50 per 100,000 births in 1997 to 36.5 last year, Gavrilova said told the ITAR-Tass news agency.