Overplanned Parenthood: Ceausescu’s cruel law
from Karen Breslau, “Overplanned Parenthood: Ceausescu’s cruel law”, Newsweek, Jan. 22, 1990, p. 35.
Nicolae Ceausescu loved nothing better than a monument to himself. But his ministerial palaces and avenues paled next to another of his schemes for building socialism: a plan to increase Romania’s population from 23 million to 30 million by the year 2000. He began his campaign in 1966 with a decree that virtually made pregnancy a state policy. “The fetus is the property of the entire society,” Ceausescu proclaimed. “Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity.”
It was one of the late dictator’s cruelest commands. At first Romania’s birthrate nearly doubled. But poor nutrition and inadequate prenatal care endangered many pregnant women. The country’s infant-mortality rate soard to 83 deaths in every 1,000 births (against a Western European average of less than 10 per thousand). About one in 10 babies was born underweight; newborns weighing 1,500 grams (3 pounds, 5 ounces) were classified as miscarriages and denied treatment. Unwanted survivors often ended up in orphanages. “The law only forbade abortion,” says Dr. Alexander Floran Anca of Bucharest. “It did nothing to promote life.”
Ceausescu made mockery of family planning. He forbade sex education. Books on human sexuality and reproduction were classified as “state secrets,” to be used only as medical textbooks. With contraception banned, Romanians had to smuggle in condoms and birth-control pills. Though strictly illegal, abortions remained a widespread birth-control measure of last resort. Nationwide, Western sources estimate, 60 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion or miscarriage.
The government’s enforcement techniques were as bad as the law. Women under the age of 45 were rounded up at their workplaces every one to three months and taken to clinics, where they were examined for signs of pregnancy, often in the presence of government agents - dubbed the “menstrual police” by some Romanians. A pregnant woman who failed to “produce” a baby at the proper time could expect to be summoned for questioning. Women who miscarried were suspected of arranging an abortion. Some doctors resorted for forging statistics. “If a child died in our district, we lost 10 to 25 percent of our salary,” says Dr. Geta Stanescu of Bucharest. “But it wasn’t our fault: we had no medicine or milk, and the families were poor.”
More, at: ceausescu.org