The Russian Orthodox Church took a strong stand against abortion on Tuesday when Orthodox Patriarch Kirill signed a petition calling on Russian legislators to make abortion illegal.
The petition, which has more than 300,000 signatures so far, urges Russian President Vladimir Putin to protect all unborn babies’ lives by banning abortions in Russia, Christian Today reports. The petition was a new move for the Russian Orthodox Church; its leaders previously opposed government-provided abortions that were not medically necessary, according to the report.
In May, the patriarch called legalized abortion a “national catastrophe carrying away the lives of more than 1 million of our fellow citizens every year,” AFP reports.
The petition urges Russian legislators to end the “legal murder of children before birth,” including surgical and drug-induced abortions and the morning-after pill. On Tuesday, the church’s commission on family and protecting motherhood and childhood approved the language of the petition, according to the report.
Pro-life campaigner Sergei Chesnokov told the news outlet that they hope to collect 1 million signatures before giving the petition to President Putin.
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Here’s more from the report:
In Russia, where Church and state are technically separate, almost one million legal abortions were carried out by state hospitals in 2014, according to the latest available government statistics.
However, this figure does not include the number of abortions carried out in private clinics.
The conservative MP Yelena Mizulina last year submitted a bill that would ban abortions in private clinics and only allow them to be covered by state healthcare if the pregnancy threatened the woman’s life.
But parliament refused to back the bill. The speaker of the upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, called it “extremist.”
Russia has the second highest abortion rate in the world, with China in first and the U.S. in a close third, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute. There are approximately 1.2 million abortions performed every year in Russia, according to the report.
Abortions have decimated the Russian population, and the country’s aging citizenry has been a major concern. In 2013, Putin signed a law to ban abortion advertising in an effort to curb abortions across the nation.
A foreign policy expert says Russia is falling apart culturally because as much as 2 percent of the nation’s potential population is victimized by abortion every year. Ilan Berman says Russia’s population implosion also may cause problems for the United States and present worldwide issues.
The reality is that Russia continues to bleed population. For about a decade and a half, projections have been that Russia’s population will plummet from 140-150 million to 104 million by 2050. There are several reasons, but among the biggest is abortion.
Putin has tried to slow the hemorrhage, but has failed to do so. In 2003, Putin signed into law the first abortion ban the country saw in 50 years, limiting abortions to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Extraordinarily high abortion rates are a product of the country’s communist past. Under dictators like Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, reports indicate that women were having as many as three abortions for every live birth. In 1965, Russia hit its highest abortion rate at 8.2 million.
Until recently, the average woman in Russia was expected to have seven abortions over her lifetime, according to the Population Research Institute.