Russia: Church and state call to criminalize inciting a woman to abortion

Moscow, November 29, 2023

Photo: RIA-Novosti Photo: RIA-Novosti     

Church and state authorities in Russia are working to reduce the sin of abortion that continues to plague the country.

Abortion was first legalized in Russia by Bolshevik authorities in 1920, and reached its peak when 5,463,300 abortions were committed in 1965 alone. After the fall of the Soviet Union, abortion remains legal, though thankfully, there has been marked improvement and the number of abortions has significantly dropped. In 2020, there were 450,000 officially recorded abortions in the country.

Both Church and state representatives agree that it would be very difficult to achieve an outright ban on abortion, but they have been working to steadily chip away at abortion rights and to encourage families to have more children.

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill has confronted the State Duma on the issue a number of times, calling for legislators to develop measures that support motherhood and childhood, thereby creating conditions that will help reduce abortions. Church representatives have repeatedly called for abortion to at least be removed from the medical insurance system, and in 2017, Mother Ksenia (Chernega), abbess of St. Alexis Monastery in Moscow and head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s legal department, was able to announce that abortions covered within the medical system were greatly reduced—to cases of rape and imprisonment.

Most recently, Pat. Kirill and others have been calling for a legislative ban on inducing women to have an abortion. Such a ban has been enacted already in the Mordovia and Tver Provinces, but should be extended to the federal level, the Church primate says, reports

The Patriarch made the call in his address to the opening of the XI General Church Congress on Social Service, noting that, “Unfortunately, the number of abortions in the country remains high.”

Banning the practice of persuading women to have abortions would be especially relevant for the country in the context of the demographic crisis, Pat. Kirill said. He also noted that the Church currently operates more than 80 shelters for women in difficult situations. Church social workers also meet with women who have already decided to have an abortion to present them with feasible alternatives.

Earlier this month, Crimean authorities, followed by authorities in the Tver Province, announced that private clinics were refusing to perform abortions. In July, the Ministry of Health said the country plans to tighten control over the circulation of abortifacient drugs by the end of the year.

The Diocese of Simferopol and Crimea, headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov), also submitted an initiative to the Public Chamber this month calling for the inducement to abortion to be a finable offense. The issue was discussed at a recent session of the Commission for the Preservation and Strengthening of Traditional Russian Spiritual and Moral Values.

Met. Tikhon, who attended the session, spoke of the inducement to abortion as “compelling a woman to artificially terminate her pregnancy by persuasion, offers, bribery, deception, or some other demands.”

The issue has also been raised in the federal Russian Parliament. Following on the proposals of Pat. Kirill and Met. Tikhon, Senator Kovitidi, a member of the Federation Council (Upper House of the Federal Assembly) from Crimea publicly voiced his approval for the initiative.

“It’s obvious that deliberate actions aimed at forcing a pregnant woman to artificially terminate her pregnancy … should entail punishment,” Kovitidi said.

“Large families should become the norm of public life in Russia. To do this, women must want to give birth to children. The state should consider additional measures of material support for families in which four, five or more children are born,” she added.

Deputies of the State Duma (Lower House) have also promised to consider reducing the permissible period for having an abortion from 12 to 8 weeks, and from 22 to 12 weeks in cases of rape.

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