By Peter J. Smith

Tom Murray and Mikhail Gorbachev in Ohio announcing the new maternity ward BALASHIKHA, Russia, July 25, 2006 ( – The successful beginning of Russia’s first pro-life maternity hospital may hold the answer for saving Russia’s dying population from plummeting into a demographic catastrophe and finally reversing the culture of abortion in Russia, claims a story in Crisis Magazine.
  According to Tom Murray, the author of the Crisis article, an experimental pro-life hospital in Balashikha, a city near the Moscow area, has won the support and encouragement of President Vladimir Putin’s government, which is facing the problem of Russia’s alarming decline in population. Russia’s low birthrate (1.28), staggeringly high abortion to birth rate of 2-1, and a life-expectancy rate hovering just beneath 60, have caused an alarmingÂannual population decline of 700,000 persons per year.

  Murray, a Catholic who has worked in Russia in the past 20 years, approached the Russian government with the possibility of American collaboration in encouragingÂan increase in theÂbirthrate. His solution was a test-pilot pro-life maternity hospital that would provide Russian mothers with modern health facilities that would promote birth and discourage abortion, and offer a pro-life model for the nation in maternal health care.

  Speaking to Health Minister Dr. Yuri Chevchenko, Murray said, “Although your government is committed to improving these causes of the problem, we believe that the best strategy in the long run is to substantially increase new births above replacement levels; and that will require a radical reduction in abortions.”

  Dr. Chevchenko conveyed to Murray that Vladimir Putin, whom he described as“a man of deep religious faith,” even during the Soviet period, keeping a crucifix belonging to his mother next to his heart , also desired to discourage abortion in Russia. He said Putin gave him his personal assurance of the government’s complete support for the project.

  Murray’s project owed its success to the joint effort between Americans and Russians in establishing the pro-life hospital. Murray and his wife Anne founded the Future of Russia Foundation (FOR) in 2002, a not-for-profit group which raised money for the pilot program. The Russian government provided them with a dilapidated 220-bed Soviet-era maternity hospital, which was serving a region about the size of Ohio. The hospital was reputably the best in the area, although MurrayÂsays the birthing suites looked more like “torture chambers.” Nevertheless they developed an unused 5,000-square-foot wing of the hospital into an antenatal clinic, and provided renovated birthing suites and nurseries with state-of-the-art medical equipment.

  The health ministry selected a team of Russian doctors, nurses, and technicians for special training in the United States. FOR established an education fund for training this team, which now in turn has trained 300 Russians to serve in the region’s health care system.

  Today the Balashikha maternity hospital has become the foremost model in renewing Russia’s maternity-care system, and has enjoyed tremendous success in increasing the birthrate in the area. The number of live births at Balashikha has nearly tripled, and hundreds of women per week, including many women from the Moscow area, visit the hospital for its maternal care. In addition, the adjoining abortion clinic, which used to perform more abortions than births at the hospital, has been closed.

  The success of the hospital has so encouraged the Russian authorities that the government established a new health-care district, extending the project to serve the 700,000 people in the area surrounding Balashikha. The pro-life model developed at the Balashikha hospital will be implemented in three other district hospitals. It is the hope of Tom Murray that the continued success of the pro-life model at the Balashikha hospital will become the model for Russia, and help Russia emerge from “the valley of the culture of death – to lead the world to a culture of life.”

  To learn more about Future of Russia Foundation, or how to support the pro-life work in Russia, contact Tom Murray at the following address:
  Tom Murray
  111 Shoreline Dr.
  Sandusky, OH 44870.

  Read the original story by Tom Murray in Crisis Online: “Saving Lenin’s Children: Russia’s First Pro-Life Maternity Ward”:Â