Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Ukraine abortion ban proposal sparks topless feminist protest at cathedral

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

KIEV, April 17, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Feminists and pro-aborts in Ukraine have staged a topless protest against government plans to outlaw abortion in some circumstances. The protest comes as the country has been plunged into a debate over the abortion law, which allows abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, while the country faces a looming demographic crisis with one of the lowest fertility rates in the world.

The feminist group ‘Femen’ angered Ukrainian Catholics by staging a protest in which a group of women exposed themselves after climbing to the top of the Cathedral of St. Sophia in the capital, stripping to the waist and hanging a sign saying, “Stop” from the bell tower while ringing the cathedral bells. Femen has protested several other issues in a similar manner, including Russian election fraud and human trafficking.

The Archbishop Evstratiy, head of the information department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, told media that the protesters’ demand that the Church have nothing to do with politics is a throwback to Stalinist times.

“No doubt, this organization’s act repulses me,” he said. “At the same time, understand that there are forces that want faith, religion, and church to be locked in temples, like they were under the Soviets, not to engage in any public activities, and not to offer any spiritual and moral values to society.”

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The flap started in March when Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, gave a speech condemning the country’s abortion law, saying, “Over 20 years of independent Ukraine we have knowingly and willingly killed 40 million children.”

In the strongly worded speech, Archbishop Shevchuk said that children who survive are “the ones who accidentally avoided the lethal hand of their parents.”

Following the speech, and reportedly at the request of the Greek Catholic Church, Andriy Shkil, the leader of the nationalist party, Ukrainian National Assembly, brought forward draft legislation that proposes to outlaw abortion and to fine parents who do not produce children. The bill would allow abortions in cases where the child’s father is deceased, if the family has a history of genetic disability or in case of teenage pregnancies under 16.

Shkil said his bill, which is thought to be unlikely to pass, would boost the flagging Ukrainian birth rate; the population has fallen from 52 to 46 million in the last 12 years.

The speech and the bill have angered feminists and abortion industry lobbyists, who are now accusing Shkil of doing the bidding of the Church. They also accused Shevchuk of inflating the abortion rates, which the Health Ministry claims is falling since the high point of the 1990s. Officially the rate fell last year to 156,000 abortions versus 492,000 births.

But Church spokesmen have defended the archbishop’s claim, saying that official numbers are skewed by the failure to include abortions caused by drugs and artificial birth control pills. Around the world, abortion industry spokesmen have boasted that surgical methods of abortion are becoming obsolete with advent of drug regimens like RU-486 that are likely to nearly replace the former methods.

In an open letter, responding to Archbishop Shevchuk’s speech and to the bill, a consortium of feminist groups said the bishop was trying to blame Ukrainian women for the country’s current demographic crisis.

“This ban will not make women give birth to children they do not want to have,” the letter said. “It will give a strong impetus to illegal abortions, raising health risks … A ban on abortions will become a greater evil than abortion.”

“You appear to forget that women aren’t to be blamed for the current situation in Ukraine, which is best described as a demographic crisis. Our population is on a downward curve because of high death and emigration rates.”

The statistics, however, show that the overall fertility rate is a major contributor to the country’s demographic troubles, with 1.29 children born per woman, according to the most recent statistics. This puts Ukraine in the company of other “lowest-low” fertility rate nations like Taiwan and South Korea, where boosting the birth rate has become a high priority for governments.

Currently, abortion is legal in Ukraine on demand for any reason, including “social or economic reasons,” up to the 12th week of pregnancy, and to the 28th week with the endorsement of physicians.

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