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An Orthodox priest has shown just how many unborn lives one person can save

Fr Alexis Tarasov says that sometimes talking and listening to someone is all it takes

By on Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The caring approach of Russian hospitals today stands in contrast to the forced birth policy of Ceaușescu (Photo: PA)

The caring approach of Russian hospitals today stands in contrast to the forced birth policy of Ceaușescu (Photo: PA)

Having written a blog on Monday about recent headlines in the abortion debate and ending with a quotation from a mystical insight of G K Chesterton’s, it is good to follow it up with this heartening story related by Thaddeus Baklinski on LifeSiteNews: that a Russian priest has saved 2,000 babies from abortion. It seems that Fr Alexis Tarasov, an Orthodox priest in the Volgograd region of Russia, has been praised for his rescue work by the Russian Ministry of Health. Fr Tarasov’s counselling initiative has reduced the abortion rate in his area by 25 per cent in the last five years. In a joint venture by the local authority and the Orthodox Church, a Centre for the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood has now been opened. As Fr Tarasov explains, its focus is simply to provide women with trained and sympathetic listeners who will also tell them about the abortion procedure and its potential effects on their health and offer them practical help.

Tellingly, he comments that “Quite often, the only thing needed to persuade a mother from this terrible decision is simply to talk to someone with an open heart.” According to Nikolai Zarkin, head doctor of Volgograd’s Central Maternity Hospital No 2, “Today, all women seeking abortions are sent by gynaecologists for consultation with the psychologist working at each prenatal hospital.” He added that as a result, 20 per cent of mothers now refuse abortion. Meanwhile, Fr Tarasov has organised legal aid and clothing for the mothers when their babies are born, as well as housing. “It is essential to build homes and equip them so that women can live with their children until their housing problem is resolved,” he comments.

This story tells us so much: that one concerned and caring individual can do great good; that the authorities in Russia give their own support, not because of their religious beliefs but presumably because of the social problems associated with a shrinking population and the benefits of encouraging birth rather than death; and that hospital doctors also recognise the importance of an independent consultation with a psychologist so that pregnant women can have the time and space to reflect on their future.

This is very different from the forced birth scenario of the late and brutal Communist dictator, President Ceaușescu, in Romania, which led to the abandonment and neglect of unwanted babies in state orphanages. It is also very different from the situation in Britain, where most of the thousands of abortions carried out every year are done by private clinics linked to the NHS, which have a vested financial interest in not trying to help vulnerable women seek a different option.

Fr Tarasov began his pro-life apostolate in his parish in the town of Voljsk, where he explains he spent hours talking to women who were considering abortion. He then expanded his work with visits to the local hospital. This was followed with the establishment of a crisis pregnancy centre. His dedication reminded me of an article I read some years ago about a humble Chinese man who built himself a shack next to a bridge over a gorge, in order to run out and stop people who were planning to use the bridge for a suicide jump. It seems he saved hundreds of lives in this simple way: by persuading suicidal people that he cared about them and that life was worth living.

Sometimes you have to cut through the red tape, the legal niceties and the conventions and just engage with someone face to face and heart to heart.

  • firstparepidemos

    God bless Father Alexis. Truly a Christ-like approach.

  • Luisa Navarro

    In my experience in Greece, the Orthodox clergy are totally inert and indifferent towards abortion, in a country rife with it. Just check some figures anywhere.

  • JFJ

    Truly inspiring, as was Cardinal Winning’s initiative in Scotland several years ago.  

  • NewMeena

    “Tarasov has organised legal aid and clothing for the mothers when their babies are born, as well as housing. “It is essential to build homes and equip them so that women can live with their children until their housing problem is resolved,” he comments.”
    This is in effect similar to what often happens in the UK. Many young women (girls), both on their own and with a partner, become pregnant because, with a baby, they know that they have a good chance of securing social housing (flat) or similar and welfare payments including assistance with, or full payment of, the rent. 

    Abortions often take place in situations where the mother is unaware of these possibilities and feels unable to confront her family with news of her pregnancy – for example if they are traditional Catholics.

  • cephas2

    Wonderful article full of hope. Deo Gratias!

  • Benedict Carter

    Very excellent work.

    Unfortunately, while the good Father has the Russian State behind him, he would probably end up in prison in the West.

  • Jeannine

    Fr Alexis not only saves babies but he is also saving his country from possible extinction. Russia is literally dying because of the rapidly declining rate of the population. Putin & company knows this very well (Can’t be a leader if there’s no one to lead.). That could be the main reason why he welcomes any program that reverses this horrible trend. The Catholic Church is also helping out & is not getting any noticeable opposition from its historical Russian competitor, the Russian Orthodox Church.

  • teigitur

    Indeed. That initiative is working well here in Scotland. Many lives saved.

  • Julia

    If she comes from a family who are genuinely Traditional Catholics, they would be over the moon that she is expecting a baby, regardless of her situation. Traditional Catholics teach their children that sex before marriage is wrong, because it is. That doesn’t mean that any baby resulting from sex before marriage is wrong. Quite the opposite!

  • NewMeena

    But in reality the families are far from over the moon. They often try to hide the fact.

    In Ireland the girl is sometimes sent to relatives (before the birth) and to London to work (after the birth) and the baby sent for adoption. I’ve come across such cases myself, even without looking for them.

    You write: “sex before marriage is wrong”. What do you believe the meaning of “wrong” is, in this context? 

  • JabbaPapa

    The meaning of “wrong” is “wrong”.

    Similarly, a spade is a spade.

  • Julia

    Are you sure you’re living in the 21st century and not the 16th? 

  • NewMeena

    Advice: don’t apply for a job as a dictionary editor.

  • Benedict Carter

    Not sure about your last sentence Jeannine. I lived in Russia for 12 years (and start living there again in two days’ time)  and know from the clergy there the opposition they get from the Patriarchate despite some soundbite nice noises. I won’t go into details here about it, but just one example is the Convent of Mother Teresa’s nuns, whose work with the absolute poorest of Moscow’s drunken street bums and homeless young adults has been fought against to the point of them nearly being thrown out of the country. 

  • JabbaPapa

    Advice : “Something that NewMeena should never attempt to provide”.

  • JR, Sydney NSW


    Benedict, if you lived in Russia for 12 years you just might be aware that abortion has been the traditional form of birth control in Russia ( and the former USSR) for decades.  Contraceptives such as the pill and the IUCD were frowned upon both by the medical establishment ( on the grounds of being unsafe) and by everyone else who thought that this made women “easy” if they had access to appropriate contraception.  The men tend to “take charge” often with coitus interruptus, or  a condom if the woman is lucky.  I am reliably informed ( by colleagues trained in Russia and the former USSR) that the average women, married or single had 12-15 pregnancies in her reproductive career and only 1 or 2 children. It’s a man’s world over there and until community attitudes change women will continue to have multiple abortions whether they like it or not. A figure of 20% who elect to carry their pregnancies is encouraging but there are still 80% who don’t proceed. Re the sideswipe at the Greek Orthodox clergy and their apparent non-interest in reducing the abortion rate, it might be salutary to reflect that there may be well-entrenched views there that first trimester pregnancies don’t count for much, and that again, the abortion rate may well be man ( as in male) driven, since women don’t tend to use contraceptives and rely on their ( frequently) unreliable partners either to use the same primitive method as their Russian brethren.

  • Costernocht

    An unfortunate shot of Ceausescu. The hat on the military man behind him has the effect of a halo.