Russian Orthodox Church Hardens Stance Against Abortion, Calls For Total Ban

Patriarch Kirill and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Patriarch has signed a petition which campaigners aim to hand to the President calling for a legal ban on abortion.Reuters

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill yesterday signed a petition to make abortion illegal, hardening the position of the church which previously only called for a ban on state-provided abortions which weren't a medical necessity.

The Patriarch met anti-abortion campaigners and signed a petition to be handed to President Vladimir Putin, the church said in a statement.

The wording of the petition, which calls for "the end of legal murder of children before birth" was agreed with the church's commission on family and protecting motherhood and childhood.

The petition states that the signatories "demand legislative amendments" to ban "surgical" and "drug-induced" abortions as well as the morning-after pill.

The church said that the Patriarch thanked and blessed the campaigners, including Orthodox Volunteers, at Tuesday's meeting.

In May the Patriarch called abortions a "truly a national catastrophe carrying away the lives of more than 1 million of our fellow citizens every year," AFP reported.

The petition has so far gathered more than 300,000 signatures, according to one of the campaigners, the head of For Life, Sergei Chesnokov.

He said that the campaigners hope to gather a million signatures and plan to hand in the petition to the president's office.

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."

In January 2015, Patriarch Kirill told the lower house, in the first time a religious leader had addressed parliament: "If we manage to cut the number of abortions by 50 per cent we would have stable and powerful population growth."