We have been keeping a close on eye on the revitalization of the Russian Orthodox Church as both a domestic and international force. And as part of that revitalization, the Russian Orthodox Church has been working very hard to see Russia’s abortion industry overturned completely; they’ve been pushing incrementally for a total ban on abortion, and in the process, have successfully lobbied the Putin government to begin chipping away at abortion access throughout the nation. Here’s what Patriarch Kirill said when he addressed the Duma, or Russian Assembly, last year, when he spoke on their need to remedy the problem of abortion. He stated: “Thank God, we are seeing some definite progress. However, continuing to receive thousands of letters from the faithful with the request to call upon the authorities to solve the problem of abortion, I ask you not to abandon the gradual efforts to overcome this terrible phenomenon.” And the Patriarch went on to assert that outlawing abortion “is not a revolutionary change, but a return to normal life, without which men and women’s happiness is unthinkable, and the future of our people is impossible.”
Now the progress he alluded to here involves such measures as Russia’s banning of abortion ads and the relatively new law banning abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy, and all of this combined with the Russian Orthodox Church’s efforts to set up social support for the family and for pregnant women, which we will get into in a bit.
Well, now we have some evidence that the wider Russian society itself is beginning to move in the pro-life direction characteristic of a thoroughly Christian civilization. Let’s begin with some statistics. Last year, Russia reported the lowest abortion rates since the end of WWII, an estimated 700,000 abortions. And we can see a consistent trend of decline over the course of that period: in 1965, there was an astounding 5 million abortions committed in Russia; in 1990, in the last year or two before the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were well over 4 million abortions; in the year 2000, that number decreased to just over 2 million abortions; and then in 2012, that number was reduced to about a million abortions. So the result is that abortions have decreased eight-fold in Russia over the past 25 years, from approximately 5 million annually to just over a half a million. Moreover, since 2007, the number of births in Russia has exceeded the number of abortions, by about a 2 to 1 margin; again, this is a stunning reversal over the last few decades. By the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union had one of the highest rates of abortion among developed countries, some estimates indicate 115 abortions for every 100 births.
Now another indicator that Russia is turning toward a full culture of life is the change in attitude among the population. In the last 20 years, the proportion of Russian citizens who consider abortion unacceptable has actually tripled from 12% to 35%. We have to remember that in 1920, in the whole spirit of Marxist-inspired gender equality, the Soviet Union became the first state in the world to legalize abortion, and so the practice has remained sadly very popular among Russians; they just see it as a form of birth control and nothing more. Again, just 20 years ago, only 12 percent of the Russian population denounced abortion. Well, that number has now risen 300 percent in just two decades. So much for the world becoming more and more secular, right? The study found that women were more likely than men to condemn abortion; they found that women held a more strict view, with 37% condemning abortion in all cases, as compared to 31% of men.
Now, there are several reasons for this change in attitude that we can identify. The first is of course the tireless efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church working closely together with the Russian state. The state has instituted economic support for families with lots of children as a way to reverse the population decline; the Church has established centers of support for pregnant women in difficult situations, something akin to our crisis pregnancy centers, and they’ve promoted the development of education on the dangers of abortions. Moreover, what should not be overlooked is the success the Church and the Russian state have had in promoting the traditional family and sexual relations, the collapse of which is intimately tied up in abortion. Both abortion and modern contraception on the one hand and sexual promiscuity and homosexuality on the other both amputate or separate sex and sexuality from procreation and the family, and so both practices tend to foster mutually the notion that sex is legitimately pursued completely without regard for children. And the most recent studies show an overwhelming rejection of homosexuality and same-sex relationships among the Russian population.
Another reason for this change in attitude is of course the nationalist turn in Russia over the last couple of decades. There are studies that have concluded that nationalist movements tend to promote anti-abortion sentiments, largely because nationalist movements tend to be very traditional, they tend to be very pro-family, and thus very multi-generational. I like to illustrate this with the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. If you haven not seen the film, there is a young Greek woman named Tula who has this huge Greek family, and they live in Chicago, and to the shock of everyone, she gets engaged to this ‘regular American’ as Archie Bunker would say, Ian Miller. Ian Miller comes from a typical American secular family. And so on the day of their wedding, it’s a wonderful scene; they get married in the Greek Orthodox Church, and when the father walks his daughter Tula down the aisle, the camera pans over the entire sanctuary, and you see on Ian Miller’s family’s side, the secular side as it were, just a handful of family members in attendance, and then on the right side, the bride’s side, it is just filled to the brim, it is utterly standing room only with Tula’s family members. And here you can see the contrast between a religious, nationalist, traditionalist vision of the family and this pathetic dying secular view of the family. I think it’s an amazing commentary on the social differences between secular and traditionalist conceptions, however inadvertent such a commentary turns out to be. And so, we will be keeping our eyes on this situation in Russia; and we will certainly be praying for God’s richest blessings on the efforts of the Russian Orthodox Church and the flourishing of a rich culture of life throughout Russia and indeed throughout the world.
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