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A Story About A Life: Anti-Abortion

Archbishop Stylianos of Australia: On Abortion

Dearly beloved,

With this letter, I wish to address in particular the sensitivity and charity of all the faithful of our Archdiocese in order to remind the sacredness of human life, which apparently we have not yet taken as seriously as we should.

I do not refer to the daily actions at the expense of the bodily and spiritual health of our fellow human beings or of ourselves, for which we are certainly responsible before God.

I mean rather the hardness and criminality against human life in its still embryonic state, unable to defend itself or protest.

I mean the question of mass abortions which is silently turning our contemporary — supposedly Christian, or at least humanitarian — societies into a field of invisible slaughter without anyone condemning publicly the numbers of victims and magnitude of this cruelty.

Official statistics given by the relevant state authorities claim that in New South Wales alone, during the year 1988–89 31,351 abortions took place. Of these, only 1% were necessitated by medical opinion owing to the immediate danger of the pregnant woman.These numbers constitute a terrible sign of our behaviour in the most sacred matter in which God calls us to become His close collaborators. However, it unfortunately appears that the issue of abortion in contemporary societies has almost become a matter of routine, without any moral problematic. Otherwise one cannot explain the ease with which one decides about an abortion today, just as one decides to extract a tooth.

We must therefore remember that whatever the reason leading couples to decide to cease in a violent manner an undesired pregnancy, the good of life and of existence lies totally in God’s hands, and we must know that any intervention entangles us in a profound mystery.

Our Church, as in all similar moral issues, does not respond with a blind answer of “yes” or “no”. The first thing it says is “Stand well!” This means: “Be careful!” And when in this way one realises that one is dealing with a question of life or death — not only of physical death, but also spiritual — then one is in a position to weigh up in the fear of God both the opinion of responsible science and the advice of the spiritual confessor.

I wish and pray fervently that our faithful may see this tremendous moral subject with renewed responsibility and act in each specific case according to the sacredness of the problem.

With paternal love in the Lord

Archbishop Stylianos

from Voice of Orthodoxy, vol 11/1-2, January 1990
the official publication of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.

For more comments by Church hierarchy on this issue, please refer to: http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/ethics.htm

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  1. Prevalent and relevant. The Archbishop and nation’s spiritual guide has nailed it once again when he states that people put more thought on extracting a tooth than aborting a newly born. I think abortion is a misnomer its actually murder. To abort is to stop or pull out e.g any sort of mission. Then one may say isn’t the process of having a child a sacred mission? God permits and blesses the mission and man aborts for their own selfish reasons… God help us!

  2. The politically “correct” position would be the rights of the woman, but there is a group out there which is totally bypassed in this debate, and that is the women who have lost children in miscarriages and stillbirths or have sterility issues. Abortion is such an obscene act for them because they are watching people so carelessly discarding what they cannot have. Why is it so easy for people to abort but not so easy to adopt?

    • Regretfully Nayia there are many voices that are not heard within the discussion of Pro-Life or Pro-Choice (or Pro-Death as some would term it). Furthermore Mode of Life may be accused of being sensationalist with regards to our presentation of the issue under discussion, but it is because we wish to capture peoples’ attention. You are right Nayia about the burdens and challenges of miscarriages, fertility problems and stillbirths.

      Yet it is also interesting to note that the “Pro-Choice” lobby in many countries try to prevent women from being informed of the various health risks or problems posed by having an abortion. It is also worthy to note that within Australia (unlike many European countries or the U.S.), particularly in the state of Victoria, there is no serious provision for counselling services to be offered, especially by the abortion clinic (which is a requirement in other countries). Thus women who are considering the option of abortion, have been denied the choice to consider and weigh all possible decisions, and have been compelled to accept abortion as a matter of fact.

      Unfortunately this matter is made worse by the fact that under Victorian state legislation (in contradiction to the oath of Hippocrates), doctors and medical practitioners are denied freedom of conscience as to whether they would perform such a procedure or not. Under the present legislation, they are thus obligated to perform an abortion. Additionally, these abortions can now occur right up until 7-8 months pregnancy, (and theoretically even at 9 months), and are called late-term terminations. In contemplating this state of affairs at purely the logical level, one would have to ask, if a woman intended to have an abortion, why would she leave it to such a late point within her pregnancy? Given that the existing technologies and procedures available, allow the termination of a foetus at an earlier stage of pregnancy with lower risk to the woman concerned, why would one leave it as late as 7-8 months pregnancy?

      Nevertheless the public are also kept in the dark as to the nature of the various procedures that are employed, particularly the “partial-birth termination” whereby a baby is drawn halfway out of their mother, turned, injected with a lethal concoction and shoved back into the mother’s womb to die, so that a “stillbirth” may occur. Yet there are babies which survive this procedure, but unlike in other places whereby medical practitioners are obliged to resuscitate or care for the surviving baby into proper life-functioning, in Victoria they are not obliged to do that and can leave the survivor to die.

      (There have been rumours within medical circles in Victoria, of nurses in such clinics, even killing the surviving baby, but it is difficult to confirm these assertions. But it is possible, given the absence of cover by the existing legislation, whereby a person could in theory kill any number of these surviving babies without legal action taken against them. Given that the clinic or the mothers concerned and their intentions, neither parties would want to report such actions since it would legally implicate them and make them liable for murder or manslaughter).

      Some observers here noted that an unborn chick in an egg had more legislation protecting its right to life without suffering pain and receive due care, than a human baby partially born or remaining within the womb. Where animal rights advocates have triumphed, it seems that humans and their rights do not register the same clout with Victorian policy-makers. Yet the irony is that so-called “liberated” or “progressive” “modern/post-modern” societies seek to follow Victoria’s lead in pro-choice legislation. Of course I would like to know exactly what is “progressive”, “modern” or “liberated” about such badly thought-out legislation on such a delicate social issue? For that matter, what do we mean by “liberated, modern or progressive”, what exactly are we being liberated from, or progressing away from, and how are we being modern or innovative?

      Then we must ask ourselves why are law-makers passing legislation that make it difficult to adopt, while at the same time promoting new birthing and fertility assisted procedures and technologies such as IVF, and encouraging people to utilise these. Why is it that these procedures are promoted at the expense, or in opposition to more natural approaches to problems of infertility, which are cheaper, more effective and less burdensome upon couples, such as NaPro? Furthermore why is it that things like IVF have been heard of and dominate the market-share of medically assisted fertility than procedures like NaPro?

      Is it because there is money to be made, despite the fact that there are no guarantees of success or the health risks posed to women (or the potential child), and irrespective of the pain and anguish which couples endure? I personally cannot answer this, it is something that requires SERIOUS public discussion and examination to determine. Not emotions or skewed information, but all the facts to be presented and examined!

      However in considering the aforementioned thoughts, we must then examine what are the causes for the seemingly increasing rate of infertility? Is it an existing issue, or are we told it is an issue in order to promote experiments in fertility technologies and procedures, as well as the justification for embryonic stem-cell research?

      Yet this quiet biological revolution happening behind closed doors of laboratories has many possibilities, for it is speculated within various political circles that there are countries and organisations examining the potentialities of genetic manipulation in the hope of creating “armies” of a new breed of “soldier”. As to the veracity of such a development, only time will reveal what is going on, just as World War II witnessed the development of microwave and internet technologies, but only became known in more recent times and became widespread within mainstream usage. So we will not know what is presently happening, unless we live long enough to witness the time when such developments in bio-technologies cannot be kept secret or become part of mainstream life. I suspect cloning will play a crucial role in our world’s future, whether for the better or for the worst we cannot say.

      (Suffice to say it, the example of the dangers posed by developments within bio-technologies can be cited by the unknown and not well studied area of “Gulf syndrome”, whereby returned U.S. servicemen seem to be suffering from the chemical and biological agents injected into them when they went off to war. On such a matter the U.S. government has tried to remain silent on and down-play any discussion on the matter.)

      However, in returning to our topic of discussion; we should note that there are various scientists and ethicists who have been interested in examining the impacts of present-day lifestyles within developed countries upon the general health and fertility of the population, and then compare those findings with that of past trends as well as results from developing countries. Such considerations focused on water treatment, air pollution, chemicals within food and genetically modified crops, processes of cooking food (IE. Microwaves), level of hygiene, utilisation of climate control systems (IE. Air conditioners), cost of living, age, gender and sexual interaction.

      In gathering these constituent elements, studies were also conducted on the number of births that occurred to “fertility-challenged” couples which as a result could influence the general fertility of their society. For example, in a developed country, the chances of an “infertile” couple having a baby, was greater than their counterparts in developing countries. The implication of such research indicated the increased likelihood of “infertile” couples within developed countries passing on their probable infertility issues to the next generation. Whereas in developing countries, the offspring of fertile couples would outnumber those of fertility challenged couples, and thus ensured the general survival of their communities against any possible threat posed by the danger of infertility.

      Furthermore it was noted that in developed countries with their numerous socio-economic opportunities, people chose to have children later on in life when they may not be at their most fertile; while the high cost of living deterred both fertile and not so fertile couples from having many children. Thus levelling out fertility rates on par between fertile and “infertile” couples and posing a serious risk to the biological/genetic survival of their given society. With regards this point, some observers noted the role that immigration played in maintaining the biological and economic well-being of developed societies needed greater attention. Particularly the need to examine the fertility of existing populations and their offspring against those of the immigrants and their offspring’s descendants.

      Against such considerations there are biologists who utilise these predominately “man-made” or “human-influenced” factors to argue that humanity will eliminate itself by corrupting our biological health and integrity. They use the umbrella term “the DNA degeneration phenomenon” to describe this interplay upon human fertility. With regards abortion, they would note that many of the existing procedures decrease a woman’s fertility, including the saline solution method. (One procedure that I can recall but do not wish to describe, witnesses the damaging of the lining of a woman’s uterus, and thus decreases exponentially her future chances of giving birth).

      In addition to this, they noted that in the past, infertile couples not only served as a “social pressure valve release” through adopting unwanted children and providing a home for them; but ensured the “DNA survival” of their society since the unwanted children would have died of hunger and neglect, who in adulthood, could become possible parents also. Yet there were scientists who noted that the existence of infertile couples also helped “absorb” “population excesses” through their lack of fertility and adoption of children. However the present framework, whereby couples are restricted in their ability to adopt, but are forced unto utilising fertility assisted methods for pregnancy, hence cancelling the “societal benefits” of infertile couples and their ability to “absorb population pressures”, while probably passing on their infertility issues. This particular point seems to be an increasing reality, because the presence of the current arsenal of fertility assisted pregnancy, which seeks to remedy infertility, seems to be encouraging the problem further and thus inflict anguish upon an ever-increasing number of couples. To which these studies are now asking as to whether humans are breeding themselves out of existence…

      As for all those unwanted and unloved children, they are left to the mercy of the bureaucracy of governmental authorities or whoever assumes responsibility, otherwise in the absence of a “responsible” authority or charity, such children have to fend for themselves, and if they cannot maintain their survival they inevitably die! (A rather sad state of affairs and one which should not occur).

      From an Orthodox Christian standpoint, the advent of fertility assisted pregnancies via bio-technologies and procedures, causes one to contemplate as to what is it that we seek to impart into our society by having families. Such a question was once posed to St Clement of Alexandria, when asked: “What is the role of parents in the raising of families?” He astutely observed that children are not the personal possession or slaves of parents to do as they like. Rather, the parents are appointed by God as stewards of the souls of their offspring, who God granted to them, and henceforth will be held accountable for on the Day of Judgement. For the children are God’s, and they must be taught the wisdom of agapetic love. Therefore to draw upon Clement’s thoughts, what are we suppose to be passing on, DNA or love?

      Should not the woman who is capable of bearing children, but unwilling to accept her vocation of love and responsibility, offer her child to the couple who have not been blessed with offspring of their own?

      Alternatively put, should a couple go out of their way, trying to force/manipulate biological or God given processes, so that they may attain a child as if it were a mere “possession” and pass on their DNA, as opposed to being “bestowed” with a child to love and care for? (Consider the recent development of “designer babies” phenomenon which is a new “fertility market” in the making. Thankfully the technologies have yet to make this a full reality, but there are scientists working towards this goal).

      These questions and many more, with regards the contradiction between abortion and infertility, Mode of Life cannot answer in absolute or concretely conclusive terms. Firstly we do not have that right to do so, secondly we seek to encourage sensible discourse which involves all peoples without regard of political correctness that considers all factors involved, because the very irreversible nature of abortion demands from us all due consideration. Furthermore, the termination of a living being, who like us, the trees, or the animals of the earth, or the fish of the seas or the creatures of the air, all share this distinct gift of life upon this unique planet of diversity. For all people know now, the dangers posed by the reprehensible acts of deforestation or the pollution of waterways which have as a consequence, the undermining of the quality of life and existence of all living things upon this earth, and to which all should have a right to enjoy.

      From the Orthodox standpoint, this is even more confronting when we consider that each person, irrespective of age, race, gender, religion, culture, nationality, conceived or born, are the very living image and icon of God before us. Therefore who are we to deny another person’s right to exist? This should cause us to think, can we take away another person’s rights, if so how and why? On what grounds can we do this, especially if we have not even weighed up all options, nor have an open discussion without being railroaded into such decisions by a select but vocal minority who have cleverly influenced, manipulated and exploited public opinion?

      Yet many voices still remain silent or have been silenced with regards abortion and infertility, but the key question at the centre of many other questions still remains. That is, by what right or reasons can we justifiably terminate an unborn or partially born life of any human? For if we are dismissive of such a question, then we assert that might is right, and humanity will have to continue to endure many more wars, oppressions and genocides, until we are able to deal with each person’s right to exist and accept their uniqueness in all aspects.

      It is as some Orthodox Christian commentators would term, the acceptance of “multi-humanism” and not just multi-religiosity, political plurality or multi-culturalism, but one that embraces the entire being of the person, whether appearance, character flaws, illnesses, disabilities, culture, race and so forth. The memories of Hitler and Stalin are still potent reminders to us, as the dangers posed by ideological convictions by which we can trespass upon the God given goal of multi-humanism.

      Alas eugenics is making a return, while neo-atheism, post-modernism, dawkinism and so forth are the new ideologies pushing us down the same path of destruction, because they do not give heed to alternate views, nor allow other voices to be heard in any debate, despite their hunger for “logomacheia” and vainglorious attention.

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