28 Mar 2018

The death toll of Romania's abortion ban

Thirty years have gone by since Romania's abortion ban was lifted, but the country still struggles with the ongoing consequences of Ceausescu's natalist policies and its thousands of victims.

Delia Budurca
Delia Budurca NewsMavens, Romania
Source: Alexandria
The death toll of Romania's abortion ban - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

In 1966, Nicolae Ceausescu enforced a law that banned abortion in order to fulfil his dream of dramatically boosting birth rates. What followed was one of the most painful experiences in the country's modern history.

With no sexual education and no access to contraception, there ensued a massive wave of underground abortions, which claimed the lives of nearly 10,000 women.

The first government after the fall of the communist regime changed the law on the very first day of its mandate, on December 26, 1989. The following year, 1 million Romanian women had an abortion.

Today, 30 years later, Romania continues to have the highest abortion rate in the EU, 480 abortions per 1,000 live births. For comparison, in Italy, where abortion has been legal since 1979, there are only 9.8 abortions per live birth -- a parallel that proves there is no positive correlation between liberal laws and abortion rates.

health, women's issues, reproductive rights

Details from the story:

  • Although after World War II, abortion was banned across the Soviet Union, the number of abortions in Romania reached 1,1 million in 1965 -- double that of 1959. 4 out of 5 pregnancies were interrupted, mostly due to a lack of sexual education and contraceptive means.
  • In October 1966, Ceausescu enforced the 770 Decree, which made abortion a criminal offense, punishable by imprisonment. He wanted the population of Romania to reach 24 million in 1990 and 30 million in 2000.
  • The results were frightening. According to the Center for Statistics and Medical Documentation, 9,452 women died between 1966 and 1989 because of self-inflicted abortions or clandestine procedures, performed by pseudo-doctors.
  • Real figures are likely to be far more tragic. Often, death certificates gave “kidney failure” or “septicemia” as cause of death to protect the family, and the gynecologists.
  • In the 1980s, all young people over 25 had to pay an additional 10% tax if they were not married. Couples who failed to have at least one child after two years of marriage were fined.
  • According to the World Health Organization, Romania continues to have the highest abortion rate in Europe -- 480 abortions per 1,000 births, twice the EU average.
  • The March 1965 census recorded 19,103,173 citizens of Romania. In 2016, Romania’s population was 19,71 million.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

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NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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