Abortion attacks by Serbian Orthodox leaders spark alarm

 30 Oct 2017 - 19:31

Abortion attacks by Serbian Orthodox leaders spark alarm
Serbian Orthodox believers burn dried oak branches, which symbolize the Yule log, on Orthodox Christmas Eve in front of the St. Sava Church in Belgrade, January 6, 2014. (Reuters)

Reuters

Belgrade:  Leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church have sparked alarm among women with recent attacks on the right to abortion in the patriarchal Balkan region.

During a mass in mid-October, Amfilohije Radovic, a bishop who leads the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, accused women who terminated their pregnancies of murdering children.

"Serbian women kill more children each year in their wombs than Mussolini, Hitler, Broz (late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito), and those (Kosovo Albanians) in Kosovo," he said during the service in Kosovo's western city of Pec.

On Monday, Belgrade-based lawyer Jelena Drenca asked the Serbian Orthodox Church to take "disciplinary measures" against the bishop in order to "prevent the Church from facing legal action".

The bishop's statement, made at his "place of work", amounted to "a violation of the law on discrimination", Drenca wrote in the letter quoted by the Serbian news agency Beta.

The right to abortion was established across the former Yugoslavia in the late 1970s.

Following the bishop's comment, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, told Serbia's tabloid newspaper Alo! last week that it was "a women's duty to give birth in order to regenerate the nation".

The Patriarch met Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on October 28 and according to a statement from the presidency, the two men were worried about the country's "very low birth rate".

Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlovic insisted last week however that women should "decide alone" on having children, "without being forced".

"How can the woman decide alone, with complete impunity, on the life or the killing of a future newborn who is unprotected and innocent? Where is the morality, the conscience?" said a statement from the Church in response.

"Abortion is not just a legal, demographic or political issue, it is primarily existential, ethical and axiological," the statement said.

More than 30,000 abortions are conducted each year in Serbia, according the country's public health institute.

Since the fall of communism in the early 1990s, the Orthodox clergy has tried to exert a strong influence in the country of seven million people, most of whom are Orthodox Christians.