MOSCOW -- Russia has increased its regulation of the largely unrestricted practice of abortion, requiring clinics to warn potential clients of the purported health hazards of the procedure.

A new law signed Thursday by President Dmitry Medvedev is seen by some observers as possibly the first in a series of new rules governing abortion.

Russia has among the highest abortion rates in the world, a major contributor to a worrying population decline that the Kremlin is under massive pressure to stop. Abortion is available at any licensed medical clinic in the country and at any term in the pregnancy, though late termination is only permitted on grounds of severe health risks to the mother or fetal abnormalities.

The Kremlin says the law is aimed at "protecting the health of the woman" against the possible risks, including sterility.