When pre-abortion counseling is left to priests

Hospitals in Romania have Orthodox priests who, in some cases, have agreed with the hospital management that any woman wanting an abortion should first receive counseling from them.

Delia Budurca
Delia Budurca NewsMavens, Romania
When
pre-abortion counseling is left to priests - NewsMavens
Romanian church. Pixabay

Why this story matters:

In some cases these meetings with priests have become mandatory, and in some cases these priests have threatened women with eternal damnation. 

In a hospital in Piatra Neamt, over two years -- 2013 and 2014 -- there had to be a mandatory meeting with the priest and, separately, a psychologist. Both were members of a committee approved by the management of the hospital.

The committee had to endorse abortions on demand.

After counseling, if the woman still wanted the abortion, she had to sign a statement acknowledging her own responsibility along with the risks of the intervention, but which also stated that "the fetus is a human being, her own child".

In the summer of 2015, the hospital reneged on this decision entirely and now does not allow any abortion on demand. This decision is still in place today.

In Bacau, one of the largest cities in the northeast of the country, a priest and members of a pro-life Christian association entered the waiting room of a hospital -- with the agreement of the hospital management -- in order to persuade women to not to have an abortion.

The written agreement given by the hospital management was withdrawn when the situation degenerated -- some women who still wanted the procedure were cursed "to burn in the fires of hell."

In both situations, a non-governmental association -- the Christian NGO, Mother Olga -- was involved, and it subsequently offered support to women who did not have the abortion. In many Romanian hospitals, there are churches or chapels next to the hospital or even in the courtyard of the hospital; patients and doctors believe that faith can help a patient's recovery.

In Romania, abortion is a sensitive issue -- following the pro-natalist policy led by Nicolae Ceausescu during the communist period (1966- 1989), more than 10,000 women died as a result of illegal abortions, leaving thousands of orphans behind. Also, thousands of children have been abandoned or have been born with malformations following unsuccessful illegal procedures. The new government has legalized abortion on December 26, 1989, on the first day of its mandate. As a result, there were one million registered abortions in 1990.

Details from the story:

  • The church in general, including the Romanian Orthodox Church, considers abortion an infanticide, whether it occurs through the second day, two weeks (medical abortion), abortion on demand in the first 2-3 months of pregnancy or even later -- for example, in the case of therapeutic abortion.
  • In Romania, abortion on demand is legal until the third month of pregnancy.
  • Still, by condemning contraception, no matter what type, the church is in conflict with the pro-contraception campaigns carried out and paid out of public money by the Ministry of Health.
  • The decision taken by the County Hospital in Piatra Neamţ on November 1, 2013 implied that any woman applying for a pregnancy interruption must pass through a pre-abortion counseling committee. The commission included psychologists, the chief doctor of the Emergency Receiving Unit, priests and a representative of a Christian NGO, Mother Olga.
  • The duration of the counseling should not exceed ten days and the appointment of the abortion procedure should always be done after counseling, not before.
  • If the patient wanted to be subject to curettage, however, she received a so-called "pre-abortion counseling act", accompanied by a statement on her own responsibility in respect of the risks of the procedure, but also stating that "the fetus is a human being, her own child ".

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