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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Romanian Perspective on Abortion

It's now been 100 years since the Bolshevik Revolution—a good time to remember that widespread state-sanctioned abortion is the fruit of Communism. However, when someone argues that Communists disrespected the right to life of unborn humans the same way they disrespected the basic rights of other groups of people, pro-choice activists always bring up one counterexample. That example is of the so-called abortion ban in my country: Romania.

Historic facts: the Communists who had occupied Romania legalized abortion on demand in 1957. As in all countries with Communist regimes, abortion was promoted and viewed as a sign of progress and women's emancipation. Abortion had already been widely performed since World War II; now it was official, state-approved family planning. It became so frequent that the birth rate declined rapidly and the number of abortions per year, in this country of 19 million people, reached a peak of 1.15 million in 1965 (when 8 in 10 pregnancies were aborted).

Faced with a looming demographic disaster, the leaders of the Communist Party decided on a sudden change of policy: after they had told women to have as many abortions as they (or their husbands) wanted, they were now going to request that they have babies instead. The Decree 770 issued in October 1966 restricted abortion access, allowing it only to women whose life or health was endangered by pregnancy, who were over 45 years old or had already born 4 children. And while contraception wasn't forbidden in any way, it wasn't being imported either. The effects were predictible: many women by now used to "solving the problem" chose to self-induce or procure illegal abortions—fueled by the indifference of the men in their lives who expected sex without children, as well as the general lack of support for families (mothers were forced to go back to work three months after birth, daycare centers and hospitals were terrible, many commodities were hard to find, etc). Thousands of women died as a result.

This is the tragedy that abortion activists exploit whenever they speak of the "total abortion ban" in Romania (in reality a restriction on elective abortions). It doesn't matter to them that over 7 million unborn Romanians and members of the minority ethnic groups died too in those years between 1958 and 1989 (that's just the abortions in the state records; there were of course many more illegal ones that weren't recorded). More should have died, since they were unwanted. People see the effects of the Decree on a population accustomed to getting rid of their unborn offspring, with no family-friendly laws and no education to counter that mentality, and look no further. Communist anti-abortion policies bad, therefore any other anti-abortion initiative bad.

There is a documentary that shows how things were. It's called Children of the Decree and has a strong pro-choice angle. One implied message is that the unwanted children in the horrible state orphanages should have been killed before birth. And that the woman who performed hundreds of illegal abortions (and went to prison for killing a girl in the process) was simply necessary to "help" desperate women. But there are also other things, in the comments of actual Children of the Decree who were interviewed for the documentary.

A woman had a baby who was unwanted, just as she had been: a second-generation Child of the Decree. A teenager at the time, she was convinced by her father that a child would destroy her future. Only the fear of complications prevented the abortion. In the film however she shows deep remorse, regretting that she ever saw her boy as an obstacle to get rid of. Conversely, another adult Child of the Decree finds it "amuzant" (funny, amusing) that his mother had countless abortions and he was just a case of "nothing could be done." He says that he was just lucky—could have been like the one before or the one after him. Separately, his mother observes that this generation of children was more determined to thrive than others, fought harder for what they wanted, maybe because of how they came to be born.

There are many horrifying things in the documentary, but perhaps nothing as unsettling (because of its banality) as a man who laughs at the thought that his parents would have had him killed like they did his siblings. This is what widespread abortion, legal or illegal, leads to: the knowledge that one's life doesn't matter. Like Communism, abortion kills people who get in the way, while their relatives go along with it. Those of us who survive the "choice" learn to ignore the ones who don't make it out of the dictatorship we are all conceived in—whether that dictatorship is behind an Iron Curtain or in a 21st century democracy in which the unborn have no protection. We just fight harder for ourselves, as if to win the right to our own life.

[Today's guest post by Alexandra Moldoveanu is part of our paid blogging program. Alexandra is a pro-life poet who writes and promotes literature on abortion and other human rights issues at www.prolifepoetry.space. She is the "wanted" sister of an aborted Romanian and the niece of many other aborted Romanians.]

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