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‘Embryo is a human being’: Russian Orthodox Church seeks ‘right to life’ for unborn children

‘Embryo is a human being’: Russian Orthodox Church seeks ‘right to life’ for unborn children
The right to life should be guaranteed for embryos, the Russian Orthodox Church has said as it presented a document which calls for abortions and scientific experiments on human embryos to be banned.

“An embryo is a human being, who therefore has certain rights that should be protected,” the paper, rolled out for public discussion, states. The document specifically lists the right to life, human identity, and personal developments as indispensable to any unborn child from the moment of conception.

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The Orthodox Church has asked the Russian government to grant doctors a right to refuse to perform an abortion on grounds of conscience. It also called for a ban on any experiments on human embryos and freezing them.

The clerics also criticized the practice of prenatal testing aimed at helping parents to have a child with certain genetic traits. The Church denounced such a practice as unacceptable, explaining that it equates to the outright killing of unborn babies that do not make it through this artificial filter.

Abortions are a serious source of concern for the Russian authorities as the 144.5 million-strong nation seeks to encourage population growth. In mid-May, the Russian Children’s Commissioner Anna Kuznetsova reported that some 567,000 abortions were made in Russia in 2018. According to the Russian state statistics agency Rosstat, over 1,5 million children were born over the same period.

“That means that [an equivalent of] about one third of the children born last year did not come into this world,” Kuznetsova said, commenting on the statistical data. “That is an entire generation.”

The Russian Orthodox Church has taken a critical stance towards abortions for quite some time. In late May the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, insisted that Russia’s population will increase by almost eight percent to 156 million by 2029 and further to 166 million by 2039 should abortions be made illegal.

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In recent years, the Church has been actively advocating a ban on free abortions, saying that it’s wrong that state funds are used to “kill life.” The initiative garnered some support from the public, and backing from a number of MPs, but never came close to becoming a law.

The initiative to ban abortions stumbled upon the opposition from the Russian Health Ministry, though. Tatyana Yakovleva, the Deputy Health Minister, said in early June that such a move would only lead to increased maternal and infant mortality while bringing no benefits.

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