Russian pro-lifers to launch women's health clinics that don't provide abortions

July 1, 2011

Moscow, July 1 (ENINews)--A Russian pro-life organization is about to
launch a network of clinics offering pre- and post-natal care while excluding
procedures such as abortion and in-vitro fertilization that "contradict the
teachings of the Russian Orthodox, Catholic and traditional Protestant
churches," said Alexey Komov, the project manager.

The Life-Family Medical Centers Network will be run on a franchise basis
under the auspices of "Za Zhizn" ("For Life"), an anti-abortion organization
led by two Russian Orthodox priests. Its formation was announced in Moscow
on 30 June at the end of a two-day summit held by the Rockford,
Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF). The clinics will cooperate with
American organizations such as Heartbeat International, which also runs
pro-life medical centers. 

Komov, who is the WCF representative in Russia and most of the former
Soviet Union, said applications to join the project have already come in from
30 cities. Muslims and Jews who are against abortion will also be welcome.
The first clinic should open within a month, he said. 

"This is a new niche," said Komov. "We think the idea is in the air. We
guarantee that people who come to the clinics, whether Christians or from
other traditions, can rest assured they won't be forced to have abortions or
pre-natal screenings that harm expectant mothers."

Russia has one of the highest abortion rates in the world, and pro-lifers
say women are often pushed into having them. Komov said doctors who had to
leave state or private clinics because they refused to perform abortions
would be hired by the Life-Family Medical Centers.

The two-day "Moscow Demographic Summit: The Family and the Future of
Humankind" offered tangible evidence of a new alliance between American
evangelicals and the Russian Orthodox Church. Participants discussed ways to stem
Russia's precipitous population decline, fight abortion and sexual
immorality--seen as root causes of the demographic crisis--and promote large
families as a social model. Many speakers also condemned contraception.

In another sign of changing times, the event had Russian corporate
sponsors, including UralSib and Interros, two of the country's biggest financial
holding companies. 

Summit participants included officials and activists from as far away as
the Philippines and as close as Ulyanovsk, Vladimir Lenin's birthplace, in
addition to Hungarian government officials seeking support for a
sanctity-of-life clause they added to their constitution.

Among the speakers was Janice Shaw Crouse, a former speechwriter for
President George H.W. Bush, and a senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute,
the think tank for Concerned Women for America. 

In her speech at the summit, Crouse said both Russia and the United States
have suffered from the pro-choice movement. "And what a heavy price both
of our great countries are paying for the choice: millions and millions of
children are conceived only to die before they are born."

In a visit to the U.S. earlier this year, Metropolitan Hilarion of
Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department of External Church
Relations, met with evangelicals. He said churches that adhere to
traditional social doctrine on issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and family
values are natural allies.

"It was a real encouragement for evangelicals in the States to hear the
kinds of things we heard from Metropolitan Hilarion," said Crouse. "That here
in Russia you've got people who are very concerned about the life issue,
about the breakdown of the family, about how children are being raised,
about cultural influences." 

Rev. Dmitri Smirnov, a leader of the "Life" movement and an outspoken
critic of gay rights, said the extra frozen embryos often destroyed after
in-vitro fertilization mean a woman who has IVF treatment "is basically having
the equivalent of five abortions." His colleague, Rev. Maksim Obukhov, said
"It's clear that we must now create a movement in defense of the family as
a whole," he said, listing modern scourges to be fought against such as
abortion and homosexuality. 

In the fall, Russia's parliament, with heavy lobbying from the Russian
Orthodox Church, will consider legislative amendments that would place some
restrictions on abortion. The Russian church would like more.