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Christian activists gather enough support to launch bill banning abortion

Published time: May 29, 2014 09:47
A pregnant woman and her child pass by a banner with an echography of a fetus during a rally against abortion in Moscow (AFP Photo / Alexey Sazonov)

A pregnant woman and her child pass by a banner with an echography of a fetus during a rally against abortion in Moscow (AFP Photo / Alexey Sazonov)

A group of Orthodox Christian activists claim that they have gathered 100,000 signatures under a petition seeking to completely ban abortions in Russia – a number enough to make it a valid legislative initiative.

In the near future all the documents will be submitted to the authorities and the activists will be waiting for an official reaction to their demands, a member of the Public Chamber, priest Aleksander Pelin was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

The leader of the activists, Dmitriy Tsorionov elaborated on the initiative, and said that it seeks a complete legislative ban on all abortions, including those made on medical advice and on all abortive means of contraception, such as intrauterine devices and hormonal pills. Tsorionov said his group was not protesting against barrier contraceptives, such as condoms.

According to Russian Law any petition that gathers at least 100,000 signatures of support becomes a draft law and must be considered by parliament. The signatures must be gathered on the special government portal and come from registered Russian citizens. People can also vote against the initiatives on the same portal, but the votes against do not influence the documents’ movement, at least technically.

Since the scheme was introduced in March last year only three initiatives have reached the 100,000 signature threshold. The first suggested a price limit for cars purchased by state agencies, and the second called to abolish a new law targeting internet piracy. They were rejected at the first stage. The third sought changes in the rules of self defense favoring the gun lobby, and it is still being considered by an expert group.

Abortions are legal in Russia and have been since Soviet times, but currently centrist-conservative lawmakers want to limit or completely ban them, saying it is partly responsible for the country's dwindling population.

The head of the parliamentary committee for family, women and children, Yelena Mizulina told a recent parliamentary conference that the number of teenage abortions in 2013 was almost 12,000 and there were serious fears that many of the girls could be left infertile forever. The MP blamed the current Family Code and the Law on Healthcare for the situation, in particular the rule that allows abortions without parents’ consent from the age of 15.

The total number of abortions in Russia is about one million per year, according to Deputy Health Minister Tatyana Yakovleva.

In early October last year an official representative of the Russian Orthodox Church attacked abortions and surrogacy as “mutiny against God”, and less than a month later lawmaker Mizulina said in a public address that the community must urgently stop tolerating abortions and surrogacy as they threaten to wipe out the population of Russia, and the world as a whole.

The move gained little support from other politicians and shortly afterwards Mizulina played down her statements saying that she wanted to draw attention to the problem and start a discussion, not introduce any legislative limitations.