Gorbachev honors fund-raisers for Russian hospital

HURON, Ohio (AP) - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev flew to northern Ohio on Wednesday to recognize a couple who have raised money for a hospital outside Moscow.

Gorbachev (pictured, right) flew into Port Clinton and had lunch with his hosts prior to Wednesday night's $500-a-ticket banquet at a resort in this community alongside Lake Erie, said spokeswoman Maureen DeVito, representing the Sandusky law firm of Thomas J. Murray Jr.

Murray, 65, and his wife, Ann, have worked with the Washington, D.C.-based Future of Russia Foundation on behalf of a maternity and pediatric hospital in Balashika, a city of 160,000 people southeast of Moscow.

Thomas Murray, who taught himself to speak Russian, has been active in fund raising on behalf of Russian charities for 20 years and has traveled to Russia dozens of times to promote democratic institutions.

The Balashika project has a goal of $10 million to improve health care for pregnant women and infants, reduce abortions and create a model maternity clinic.

Last month Russia's chief gynecologist said about 60 percent of all pregnancies in Russia end in abortion and another 10 percent of pregnant women lose their unborn children because of health problems.

Of some 38 million Russian women of childbearing age, about 6 million are infertile, and medical authorities consider abortions a major cause of infertility.

According to the State Statistics Committee's latest estimate, Russia's population has declined by about 4 million to 143.4 million since 1989.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)