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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Sex and Contraception

Soviet society in general did not approve of unmarried couples living together but was somewhat more tolerant of occasional premarital sexual relations. The lack of suitable contraceptive devices, combined with rare public discussion about contraception, led to a large number of unwanted pregnancies. Studies in Leningrad have shown that 38 percent of all babies born in Leningrad in 1978 were conceived before marriage. A Soviet study revealed that the number of children born out of wedlock in the Soviet Union amounted to nearly 10 percent of all births, ranging from 22 percent in the Estonian Republic to 3 percent in the Azerbaydzhan Republic. Courts could order an unmarried father to pay child support if he lived with the child's mother; otherwise, the law was not firm, especially where proof of paternity was insufficient. No social stigma was attached to illegitimate children, and unmarried women received maternity benefits. Sex for sale--prostitution--however, was illegal and punishable by law. The Soviet penal code severely punished individuals running a brothel, pimping, or soliciting.

Although women were officially discouraged from having abortions, they were legal and were the chief form of birth control in the country. An estimated 8 million took place each year. Abortions were free for working women and cost 2 to 5 rubles for other women, depending on where they lived. Despite their availability, an estimated 15 percent of all abortions in the Soviet Union were illegally performed in private facilities. The approximate ratio of abortions to live births was nearly three to one.

In Muslim regions, the rate of abortion was much lower than in the European part of the country, although the higher her status or the more Russified the Muslim woman was, the more likely she was to have an abortion. Ironically, in European areas the situation was reversed; less educated couples were more likely to seek abortions than better educated couples, who were likely to use effective contraception.

Data as of May 1989