The Georgian state has begun thinking of banning abortions after influential Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia Ghudushauri-Shiolashvili pitched the idea in his Easter sermon on 5 May. Many churches may be pro-life, but in this devout Christian country, which cherishes the Church leader above any other public figure, words from the patriarch can carry as much power as papal bulls once did in Europe. During his sermon, the patriarch called on the government to stop the “terrible sin” of abortion and “filicide”, aside from a few circumstantial exceptions. He blamed both Bolshevik “atheists” from the past and modern liberal philosophy for the prevalence of abortions. Georgia tops the South Caucasus for abortions, with 408 performed per 1,000 live births, according to a study by the WHO, the Caucasus Research Resource Centres reported (By comparison, the EU rate is 222 per 1,000 live births).
Georgian government officials, who can’t hold a candle to the patriarch in terms of public support, quickly gave the nod to the Church on considering an abortion ban. Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili responded by saying that baby-boosting legislation is in order. However, he sensibly suggested that if one wanted to improve the country’s bleak demographic situation, the focus should be on economic incentives rather than abortions. Amongst top Georgian officials, only female Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani ventured to express outright scepticism, saying that the ban could make abortion an underground business. She said that prohibiting informing parents about the sex of a future child is as far as she is personally willing to go as a way to prevent selective abortions, which favour boys.
With one eye on the country’s modest population of 4.48 million, the patriarch has long pushed Georgians to have more babies. After he offered to baptise every third child as an incentive, the Church held mass baptism ceremonies several times a year. Now, he’s proposed to cash-strapped parents that, rather than aborting any additional children, they hand them over to the Church’s care. However, gender researcher Nargiza Arjevanidze cautioned that Georgia’s Soviet experience actually illustrates the dangers of an abortion ban. She said in comments to EurasiaNet that a ban during the Stalin era “led to the rise of back-room abortions that often ended in health complications and even death. Another ban could result in similar problems. Those who can afford it would travel to neighbouring countries; others would resort to illegal procedures”. She believes than an anti-abortion law would do little to reduce Georgia’s high abortion rate. Rather, Arjevanidze thinks that promotion of contraception and family planning is the real need.
7 May 2013
There are those who believe that we can solve the problems associated with abortion by simply outlawing it, and making those who provide it criminals. That’s simply hogwash of the worst possible sort. Before Roe, abortion was readily available to women who had the money to pay for it. Those who didn’t have the money to access proper medical intervention turned to quacks or “homebrew solutions”. In short, there was plenty of abortion going on despite the formal ban on the procedure.
In any case, the Church doesn’t bless political action to solve moral problems. That’s a Catholic solution (said with no rancour towards individual Catholics). It’s not Christ’s solution… it’s the solution of Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor. That is, when we try to address moral problems with the police power of the state rather than with the moral authority of Our Lord Christ, not only does the effort usually fail, it ends in exacerbating the problem. Thus, to march in “Pro-life” rallies and to support rightwing politicians because they’re anti-abortion is clearly anti-Christian (it certainly ain’t Orthodox).
St Serafim Vyritsky didn’t carry on a political protest… he prayed for the Soviet state and for its conversion. He prayed for the victory of the Red Army in the VOV, as that was preferable to a Fascist victory. He was typical of many in the Church. We didn’t carry signs… we didn’t sign petitions… we prayed. That’s right… we prayed. It worked. By the 1980s, the KPSS abandoned the anti-religious struggle… the rebirth of the Church began, not in 1991, but in 1985. If all things are equal, then, Christ calls on us to pray. He calls on us to aid unwed mothers anonymously. He calls on us to show civility to Pro-Choice people. I’ll tell you a “secret”… virtually all Pro-Choice people view abortion as a nasty alternative, one that they’d like to see minimised. They’re not pro-abortion ogres. We should have nothing to do with Randall Terry and all those even remotely of his ilk.
To take the current Pro-Life narrative as a given is to reduce a full-blown moral dilemma (for there’s no “clean” moral solution to the abortion mess) to a cartoonish, juvenile, and fundamentally-untrue fairy tale. It’s not simply “good anti-abortionists” against “evil pro-abortionists”. It’s a case where all people who favour life over death (and most Pro-Choice people DO fall in that category) have to face stern reality and unyielding facts. We can have our own opinions, but we can’t have “our own facts”.
Are we Christians? Are we Orthodox Christians? Then, we face the dilemma that Dostoyevsky posed using the figure of the Grand Inquisitor. Think hard on that one… remember, “simple” doesn’t mean “easy”, it doesn’t mean “obvious”. Do bear in mind St Serafim praying for four years for the victory of the Red Army… it led to setting up a situation that led eventually to the relaxation of the ‘80s that led to the Church’s liberation. In like manner, we may have to keep abortion legal in order to reduce it.
I fear that many will call me pro-abortion for what I’ve written. One takes that risk. I’m not such, but you have no control over what others think of what one says or does. However, I’ll say this much… I’ve got the guts and grit to speak my mind, and that’s being “honest to God”. I don’t think that displeases the Almighty… and I’m not alone in thinking that way…