A fledgling pro-life movement in Russia is borrowing strategies from its American counterpart, as well as creating strange bedfellows between Russian Orthodox and evangelical believers, reports Sophia Kishkovsky in the New York Times (June 9).
The article reports that Russian activists have adopted the English term “pro-life” as their own and American-style pickets of abortion clinics are “becoming a staple of the movement in Russia.” Kishkovsky adds that the campaign is “heavily influenced by the Russian Orthodox Church …. The church, increasingly vocal on social issues under Patriarch Kirill I, draws on widespread fears that Russians may become an ethnic minority in their own vast country.” Orthodox dioceses recently rallied together demonstrators to mark International Children’s Day by handing out anti-abortion literature.
The church involvement in the issue has been supported by wealthy and influential patrons seeking to promote patriotic and religious values, such as Russia’s first lady, Svetlana Medvedeva, and Sanctity of Motherhood, a foundation started by the wife of the head of Russia’s railroads. Activists are trying to pass an amendment that would make it more difficult to get an abortion in a country where the practice has often served as a form of birth control. The anti-abortion movement is small enough so that there has not been an outcry from the weakly organized women’s groups, writes Kishkovsky.
But the movement has created unusual coalitions, such as with the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families. Larry Jacobs, president of the congress, organized a U.S. tour for Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion, who has been in the forefront of encouraging a “strategic alliance” with evangelicals and Roman Catholics on pro-life and other moral issues. Kishkovsky adds that the “anti-abortion oratory familiar in the United States has found fertile ground in Russia. Graphic Web sites, posters and leaflets are supplemented with sweeping references to Russian history.”