MOSCOW, January 21, 2011 ( – The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church has offered Russian authorities suggestions on how to reduce the nation’s staggeringly high abortion rate.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia proposed a series of measures on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate, asking that the Ministry of Health and Social Development make “preservation of pregnancy a priority task for the doctor” and ban “medical initiatives on its interruption.”

In 2009 there were 1.2 million abortions in Russia compared to 1.7 million live births, according to statistics released by the Health Ministry.  Between 1992 and 2008, Russia’s population dropped by more than 12 million. In 2008 the St. Petersburg Times reported that 64% of the pregnancies of Russian women ended in abortion that year.

Patriarch Kirill urged that the state end health insurance coverage of abortion except in cases of direct threat to mother’s life, and institute a compulsory two-week waiting period after an “informed consent” form is signed by the mother, before an abortion can be performed. The Patriarch observed that “this period exists in developed countries.”

Kirill also suggested the establishment of crisis pregnancy centers in every maternity hospital, with trained professionals on hand to help “lonely mothers in difficult life situations.”

He also suggested state support for media campaigns condemning abortion and promoting maternity.