Russian Authorities Back Pro-life Center Plan

Government Wants to See More Births

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MAGADAN, Russia, FEB. 25, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Plans are under way to open three pro-life centers for women contemplating abortion in Russia.



Aid to the Church in Need reported that the Russian authorities, traditionally pro-abortion since the Soviet years, have changed their stance. State doctors are backing these advice centers due to concerns about the country's low birthrate and changing demographics.

Father Michael Shields plans to open the first center in June in the east Siberian town of Magadan, historically known for the Soviet gulag camps. It will give him and his volunteers the opportunity to work with women at the moment they confirm a pregnancy and begin contemplating their options.

Father Shields told Aid to the Church in Need, "What is amazing is that the state doctor who works at the Women's Consultation Center in Magadan approached us to see if we would be willing to develop a project there."

The priest, member of the Little Brothers of Jesus, said: "It has been wonderful because Russia is really turning a corner and wants to see more births.

"The Russian government knows that the country's demographics do not look good and that's why the birthing doctors have asked us to work with and encourage pregnant mothers."

Father Shields began his work in Ola, a nearby village, where he opened Nativity Inn to provide short-term housing for newborn babies and their parents. Women who moved to the area for studies were often dismissed from college dormitories when they were discovered pregnant, and the priest began the inn as an outreach to them.

Success at the Nativity Inn won support and opened doors for the pro-life centers. He underlined the ecumenical significance of the venture, as the Russian Orthodox Church has also pledged its pro-life support.

Father Shields reported: "What has surprised us is how much the Nativity Inn project and our center at the Church in Magadan have grown through word of mouth.

"We find again and again that women come along having heard about us from other women in the same situation."

He noted, "We hold regular meetings for women on our programs and it is really beautiful to see how good they are with children. This is remarkable when you think that they almost certainly didn't have very good childhoods with poor parenting."