News and Events - January 2009
Rev. Vasilije Vranic
Director of Religious Education
Metropolitanate of Midwest

The Orthodox Perspective on Abortion
at the occasion of the
National Sanctity of Human Life Day 2009

As the president Barack Obama is sworn as the first African-American President of the United States of America a great majority of Christians cannot fully share in the pride and joy of this historical moment, since they are troubled by the new President’s policy on the sanctity of human life. Even during his presidential campaign President Obama made it clear that if elected  President, his government will strongly support pro-choice option in the matter of abortion. Perhaps symbolically, his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States came on the National Sanctity of Human Life Day, which inspired this short article. Here I shall attempt to demonstrate why the momentum gained within the last year or so in the pro-life movement must not be stopped now.

A little over a year ago we witnessed a historical shift in the US policy on life preservation. The US Supreme Court banned a controversial abortion procedure known as partial birth abortion.  Sadly, woman’s right for abortion in this country was officially established in 1973. Since then, very little was done to legally regulate abortion. However, the recent Supreme Court made a major progress by banning partial birth abortion. This gives a great hope to all of us Christians that a more humane and civilized attitude towards human life will be observed and promoted by our society.

True, abortion was not completely outlawed, but this Supreme Court ruling sets legal precedent for further restrictions and, hopefully one-day, a full ban.

I am sure that many are interested what the orthodox attitude towards preservation of life, including abortion, is. I must say at the outset that Orthodoxy unequivocally upholds sanctity of life. Our Church very clearly and absolutely condemns abortion as an act of murder in any case. If a woman is pregnant with a child, she must allow it to be born.

Now, it should be mentioned here that our Church acknowledges various difficult, particular situations one might come across in life. For example, one must wonder whether sometimes carrying out the baby to full term might be at the expense of justice towards the mother, e.g. when carrying the baby would seriously jeopardize mother’s life.

In regard to all of those very difficult cases, such as when the mother’s life is endangered by pregnancy, the consensus of Orthodox opinion would be that a decision for abortion might possibly be made, but in no way can it be easily justified as morally righteous. Persons making such a decision must repent for it and count on the mercy of God.

The pro-choice proponents also argue that abortion should be allowed in case of unwanted pregnancies when mother (especially young mothers) conceived through violence done to them. They also argue that abortion should be allowed in cases when the embryo is diagnosed with terminal diseases or genetic illnesses that would permanently hinder the quality of the child’s life. In the case of violence, the baby should be allowed to be born, since it is not the baby’s fault she was conceived in such a way. If the mother cannot care for the child, she could give the baby for adoption. In the latter case, aborting the life of an incapacitated unborn child is highly troublesome, not only morally, but psychologically too. Let’s leave aside, for the moment, the monstrosity of killing an innocent and defenseless human being. The reasoning that it is better for the child to die than to live a debilitated life is fundamentally analogous to the Nazi doctrine of eugenics where the deeply troubled people decided to help the natural selection in creating a super-race by ridding the society of all those who were, in their opinion, less than perfect. The ultimate question here is: How could anyone know for sure that an unborn child would not want to live?!

We should remember here the great pain of an enormous number of childless couples who are doing everything possible to have at least one child, who are praying fervently, undergoing various medical procedures, suffering emotional pain, and all that for just one child. According to certain statistics currently in the US there are 6 million women who cannot have children. This means that 1 in 10 couples cannot have children. Yet, at the same time, there are 1.6 million abortions performed in the US every year. Statistically, this means that:

  • One baby is aborted every 24 seconds
  • 147 babies are aborted every hour
  • 3,542 babies are aborted every day
  • 24,865 babies are aborted every week 
  • 107,750 babies are aborted every month

Finally, it must be mentioned that since 1973 when abortion was legalized over 49,551,703 were performed and the clock is still ticking. Just let me put this number into perspective: since 1973 in this country, by abortion only, died a number of babies that equals the whole population of California and Illinois put together.

The information provided here might be very disturbing to all of us, but it was necessary to draw attention of the Orthodox Christians to this enormous and ever growing problem of abortion, which is no different from the murdering of the innocents of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. Those too were murdered out of convenience of a monstrous king, just as children die in abortion for the convenience of their parents. Alas, our society in the 21st century apparently has not advanced in these two thousand years!

It must be very clear as well that abortion out of convenience, or to put a stop to what a contraceptive method failed to prevent, is considered by the Canon law of the Church to be a crime equal to murder.

Thus, it is our duty as Orthodox Christians to make our position heard, hoping that the President will honor his promise given in the campaign and that he will listen to the people. Thus, we should join in the cry of the Christians throughout this country and contribute to the voice of the Truth, the voice of Christ, so that it may be heeded. Our voice, however small, can make all the difference. When having doubts about this, we should just remember the words of the 18th century British statesman Edmund Burke “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
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