Medical Radiology and Radiation Safety. 2013. Vol. 58. No. 5. P. 35-50


E.M. Melikhova

Changes in Induced Abortion Statistics in 1986 are not Attributable to the Psychological Consequences of Chernobyl

Nuclear Safety Institute of RAS, Moscow, Russia, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Purpose: To verify the hypothesis on increased rate of induced abortion due to the public fears of Chernobyl radiation in the affected Soviet republics and European countries.

Material and methods: Verified data on induced abortions and live births in the affected republics / counties in 1985–1987 were obtained from demographical databases of UN, INED and the State Statistical Service of USSR. Data for the most contaminated regions of the USSR were taken from the national scientific publications and international Chernobyl reports. Data related to increase of induced abortion rates in a few European countries published in 1987–2001 were crosschecked against statistical errors and changes in corresponding national abortion legislations.

Results: In Belorussian and Ukrainian Republics of the USSR, there were not statistically significant increments of induced abortion rates in 1986 against 1985. In five most contaminated administrative regions of the USSR, legal induced abortion rates in 1986 did not show statistically significant increment as well. No indications, direct or indirect, of noticeable increase of legal or criminal abortion statistics in 1986 were referred by competent national and international experts in the course of extensive studies of medical and psychological consequences of the accident. In fifteen affected European countries, significant increment of induced abortion rates in 1986 was registered in two countries only, namely in Greece and Slovakia, where abortions were legalized that year. The results published in 1987–2001 in favor of the hypothesis were invalid either due to inappropriate statistical analysis or due to ignorance of long-term trends in demographic processes.

Conclusions: 1. Results of the study allow to reject the hypothesis. Even if somewhere anxiety and fear of radiation made some women to perform induced abortions, the number of such cases was far below statistical error. 2. The study suggests that in contaminated territories, despite anxiety and distress most people do not show un-adequate behavior.

Key words: Chernobyl, psychological consequences, induced abortion, birthrate, demographical statistics