12/13/2019, 14.51
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Orthodox church debates surrogacy

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Orthodox Church speaks out in defense of the embryo as a fundamental right of the person. The topic has been hotly debated in the country for weeks.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - In recent days Protoierej Dmitry Smirnov, head of the Family Patriarchate Commission of Moscow, has declared the priority of the "defense of the rights of the embryo" as a fundamental right of the person, beyond all prejudices: "most people think that we are religious fanatics, obscurantists, that we are against progress ... while the fact is that the embryo is not a simple zygote, it is a person, from which a Suvorov or a Musorgsky can also be born, perhaps simply a good man, but nobody wants to listen to us ". Smirnov was referring to the need to find a balanced legislative solution, which can bring harmony to this issue.

The problem of surrogacy (in Russian, abbreviated as EKO) has in fact been the focus of lively discussion in Russian society for several weeks. The patriarchal specialist of this theme, the hieromonk Dmitry (Pershin) insists that EKO technology presupposes the suppression of embryos, and surrogate motherhood can result in psychological disorders in both mother and child. Russian Catholic Bishops Conference spokesman, Msgr. Igor Kovalevskij has also said that this path to motherhood is a "system of habitual prostitution".

The discussion was particularly animated when a popular television journalist, Dmitry Kiselev, stated during the December 8 news program on the first Russia 1 channel that the Orthodox Church could review its positions on the issue, putting itself in discussion with the whole society to "reach the definition of a common moral norm, with the contribution of the Church".

The responses of the representatives of the patriarchate recall that "the continuation of the species is a dimension of our bond with God, not a trip to the supermarket", and although the birth of children is a good thing, "this cannot justify the realization of a child by any available means”.

According to data from the director of the Institute of Reproductive Medicine FGBU, pregnancy with the help of EKO techniques in Russia occurs in 35% of cases, and 80% of children conceived in this way are born.

EKO techniques have spread in Russia especially since 2016, when special funds were allocated in the national "Demography" project. Vice-Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said last year that over 250,000 children will be born in Russia in the next six years thanks to EKO, which today is considered the best remedy for infertility. The practice is now widespread throughout the country, where 25-30 thousand children are born a year through surrogacy.

Beyond the official declarations, there is a diversity of opinions in the Russian Church, even quite possibly leading to a partial opening to surrogacy. The priest Roman Tarabrin, a member of the theological commission of the patriarchate and professor of humanitarian sciences at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Moscow, explained in an interview with Pravmir the need for a discussion and reflection between secular and Christian bioethics, involving the " third interlocutor”, that is the whole civil society.

"The majority of our fellow citizens approve the practices of surrogacy, but the Church cannot follow the immediate interests of society; in the document on Social Doctrine approved at the Synod of 2000, it is clearly stated that this is an unacceptable practice”.

On the other hand, Father Roman continues, “we need to distinguish between altruistic and commercial surrogate motherhood, even in legislative measures; the former is forbidden almost everywhere, while in Russia both are accepted”.

Currently the Church is engaged in a serious reflection on the subject, and is preparing a special document, in which among the various EKO technologies the morally acceptable ones will be highlighted; above all "the sacredness of marital relations will be defended, condemning any interference from external parties, including that of the surrogate mother".

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