Päivi Räsänen: Pro-Life Physician and Politician

05/08/2013 / Human Rights 

by Maaike Rosendaal (this article was originally published at unmaskingchoice.ca and is re-published with permission)

Brilliant, beautiful, but mostly brave, Päivi Räsänen was a woman hardly heard of until several weeks ago. The party leader of the Christian Democrats in Finland, who is also a physician and the Interior Minister of Parliament, was asked to speak at an event organized by the Evangelical-Lutheran Church on making moral decisions when confronted with ethical dilemmas. She alluded to real-life situations, drawing from her experience as a medical doctor, and that’s precisely what landed her in trouble. Why? Because, without any qualms, Räsänen challenged the Finnish status quo on abortion.

File 2016

“Legislation for the protection of animals gives more protection to animals than that legislation regarding abortion gives to pre-born children,” the politician pointed out. “Animals may not be slaughtered in a painful manner, but it is not permitted to even discuss the pain a fetus feels when being aborted.” What’s more, Räsänen argued, “At no point is the termination of a pregnancy acceptable. An abortion-age child is not a senseless piece of tissue but an individual who can feel pain.”

Her comments didn’t go unnoticed. Finns often pride themselves on the honesty of their people and even their politicians, though ironically, many condemned this politician for speaking nothing but the truth. Apparently when it comes to abortion, which is legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and free-of-charge in Finland, so-called reproductive rights trump all other norms, even freedom of conscience.

Räsänen criticized this trend, explaining that Finland and Sweden are the only European countries where medical professionals do not have the right to refuse having any part in an abortion procedure if this violates their values or conscience. Finnish media heavily criticized her, immediately dismissing the minister’s comments as part of her Christian faith and demanding that she “keep her religion at home.” As it turns out, many of her fellow churchgoers wholeheartedly agreed.

The Lutheran Church, which Räsänen is a member of, did not oblige the calls of many to distance itself from her seminar but rather acknowledged that her words were in line with the Augsburg Confession the church abides by. Immediately, people began to withdraw their church membership—960 on the first day of the media circus, with a total of 6500 in the week that followed.

But the woman who caused it all does not apologize. “The media attention for my lecture is out of proportion. I stand by what I said.” When asked about the multiple roles she plays in Finnish society, and whether it would have been better to make these statements privately, she smiled. “I’m always the same Päivi Räsänen, regardless of where I go or speak.”

Aside from the anger, church membership cancellations, and outrageous media coverage, an outpouring of positive emails and text messages made its way to the minister as well. Päivi clearly also inspired thousands of Finns when she expressed sentiments few dare to express, if only to avoid the wrath and ridicule of those who revere abortion more than honesty and democratic dialogue. Because when it comes to abortion, even asking critical questions may be too much.

This is not surprising. In a culture where a considerable number of pregnancies end in the violent practice that is hidden behind the word abortion, there are hundreds of thousands of men and women who have been affected. There are countless citizens who have a tremendous stake in defending the status quo, lest they have to think about what truly happened during the procedure.

That’s why Päivi Räsänen isn’t popular. Nelly McClung once said, “Wisdom is often costly but it is always worth the price.” This was true at a time when it was unpopular to fight for women’s rights but it is equally true today, when it is unpopular to fight for pre-born rights.

Yet, while her pro-life, scientifically-accurate views cause her much trouble—having been called every name in the book, her house vandalized, and property stolen—Räsänen doesn’t think herself a hero. She simply challenges us to evaluate our own lives. “We have to consider whether we have the courage to act in the face of general public opinion or norms, peer pressure, and sometimes even the law, if these contradict the word of God.” She immediately clarifies what this means in a pluralistic society, where few share the same faith background. “When governments order their citizens to violate fundamental human rights or even end another human being’s life.”

While little children are systematically torn to pieces almost 280 times a day in our own country, it takes courage to stand up and, sometimes like David facing Goliath, expose the abortion culture for what it is. It may cost us much, but far less than what is at stake for the pre-born child. And so, while we are inspired by this pro-life physician and politician, we would do well to follow in her footsteps in whichever way we can.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.”

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