Interview with Pro-Life Theology Students in Lviv
"Pro-Life," a student group at the Lviv Theological Academy (LTA), was created on the initiative of the LTA's Institute of Marriage and Family Life in 2001 with the blessing of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.Two members of the group, Artem Mysiak and Vasyl Kopyn, talk about its activities and objectives.
- The purpose and main reasons for launching this movement is the horrible practice of abortion that has been legalized in Ukraine and officially upheld by law. Article 50 of the law of Ukraine, published in "The Fundamentals of Ukraine's Legislation on Health Protection,"(The Fundamentals of Ukraine's Legislation on Health Protection #2802-XII (2802-12) from 19.11.92, ВВР, 1993,#4, p.20.) states that abortion is allowed in Ukraine at the woman's request until the twelfth week of pregnancy. It is also possible in accordance with medical or social factors to have an abortion from 12 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. In fact, this law divides Ukrainians into two categories: those who have the right to live and those who don't. This division is very similar to the Nazi approach of Adolph Hitler. Because of this, Ukraine cannot be considered as a country that guarantees equal rights for all its citizens.
In the West there are organizations that protect unborn human beings. Their activities have a considerable impact on legislators, who consequently impose certain curbs on abortion. Borrowing this Western experience, we decided to start a group of LTA students and workers in order to protect at least a small portion of unborn children. We feel that it is our duty as Christians to protect human life and dignity as well as reveal the truth about anti-human and immoral practices.
However, our Pro-Life group does not limit itself to dealing with abortions. It also tells people about proper Christian marital life and Christian love. Part of the program is to propagate the idea of natural family planning, condemn contraception as a means against love and deplore premarital and extramarital sex.
- What achievements do you already have in the field?
Members of "Pro-Life" have developed a special three-day program for schools and higher educational institutions. On the first day, they deliver lectures on the following subjects: human dignity, the essence of love, the essence of marriage, contraception as a means against love and the inappropriateness of premarital and extramarital sexual relations. The second day is solely dedicated to abortions. After a short introduction, in which our members tell the audience about the practice of abortions in Ukraine, we show the films "The Silent Scream," "The Unborn Want to Live" and "Life Before Birth." These films discuss abortions during the early and late stages of pregnancy and show the development of the embryo in the mother's body. On the third day, the students who have listened to lectures and seen the films have an opportunity to ask questions, express their own opinions or discuss the issues with pro-life activists. The audience is divided into three small groups in which the discussions are held. This method proves to be particularly effective and efficient, since students can ask any questions and communicate without pressure.
The above-mentioned films are shown weekly in the LTA building, with short discussions following afterwards. Since the movement began, we have conducted such activities in more than 10 educational institutions in Lviv, a school in the Transcarpathian region and a parish in the Ivano-Frankivsk region.
- How do the youth respond to such a delicate topic?
Frankly speaking, the youth were deeply impressed by what they heard and wished they had known more about it before. At first, they only listen, but on the third day everybody is open to talk. We feel that students are concerned with these issues and were greatly moved by what they had seen.
However, we don't always get this kind of understanding from teachers, especially school psychologists. In most cases they were educated under the Soviet system where such topics used to be taboo. This may be the reason why so little attention is paid to sexual education in schools nowadays. Oftentimes, teachers simply take it as a formality. Consequently, we have a high level of early pregnancies and a huge amount of abortions at an early age, so characteristic of third world countries.
But the movement's activities do not stop here. In 2001, "Pro-Life" opened a counseling room in the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Hospital [in Lviv]. We are extremely grateful to the administration of the hospital, in particular, the head physician, Volodymyr Semeniv, for giving us this opportunity. There is a hot-line in the room where our members work as counselors. The aim of the counseling center is to assist women who find themselves in terrible plights, who want to have or have already had an abortion, or who don't possess the material means to give birth to a child.
The counseling center has functioned since the fall of 2001 and I should say that this project is a success. We obviously need more money to advertise it in the mass media. Nevertheless, thank God our benefactors do support us and their charitable donations enhance the activities that "Pro-Life" conducts.
For the future we are planning to start different types of charitable activities. In fact, we have already begun to work on it. Our goal is to help women for whom having children is beyond their means. In this sphere, we try to cooperate with the formations of nuns and monks as well as to establish contact with charitable organizations and branches of the pro-life movement abroad.
Interview conducted in Lviv, 14 February 2002
by Taras ANTOSHEVSKY