Sunday, January 19, 2014

Decree 770 of Ceausescu

Nicolae Ceausescu
Romania, 1966 – the communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu just took power a year ago. As the new leader of Romania he aimed to make Romania independent from the influence of its powerful neighbor, the Union of Socialist Republics or the USSR. To break free from the Soviet hegemony, economic independence was crucial. One way to achieve economic independence was to have a large population that could drive a consumer-led growth and increase of work force. However, abortion was legal and prevalent in Romania. In order to reverse the abortion trend, Ceausescu resorted to abolish it with his Decree 770.

The Decree 770 of Nicolae Ceausescu was aimed at increasing the population of Romania. It was signed on October 1966 and it was to bring increase in the birthrate with various incentives to those who bore many children and restriction and ban to abortion and contraceptives. The implementation of the decree enters all aspects of life, especially job, health care, and education. It did brought the wanted baby boom but with a heavy cost.

In 1966, when Ceausescu signed the decree, it reversed the liberal reproductive control measures of the country. It made abortion available only to limited women. Those who could only have abortion were women who were 40 years old (raised to 45 years old on 1986), who have 4 or more children, and who’s life were endangered by pregnancy. These were designed to decrease abortion rates dramatically.

Other than restricting abortion, the decree also unleashed many other schemes to encourage pregnancy and birth and discourage contraception and abortion. For example, contraceptives were banned across the country. Sex education was widely censored by the government. Also, childless couples were charged with higher taxes and discriminated in jobs and in health care. Divorce was also made difficult. Furthermore, women must have mandatory pregnancy test every month in their working places and if pregnant, her pregnancy will be monitored. 

To give incentives to pregnant women, awards systems were set up. Awards were given to those who bore many children and raised them. Those who had brought to the world and raised five to six children were given the Maternity Medal. Women who gave birth to seven to nine children were given the Order of Maternal Glory. Finally, the most prestigious title of Heroine Mother was given to mothers who gave birth and raised children of ten.

Besides incentives and surveillance, the Ceausescu government also used law and punishment to discourage abortion and contraception. For instance, women who conducted self-induced abortion were to face 6 months up to two years imprisonment. Possession of contraceptives and abortifaceints would also be sentenced to imprisonment. Moreover, women who had defective abortion won’t receive any treatment unless they report who conducted the abortion. Also, doctors who conducted abortion who performed abortion because of health reasons of the patient and failed to report to higher authorities would face one to three months imprisonment. To make sure that the policies were implemented very well, officers of the Securitate, the secret police of Romania, were assigned to watch over in hospitals. Many more laws that punished abortion and contraception were implemented alongside.

Many women, however, were not deterred from undergoing abortion. Some women found ways to have abortion or better yet miscarriages. Some swallowed soap bubbles to induce miscarriage. Some put needles in their uterus to kill the fetus. But those who are desperate had an underground abortion where the conditions they face were operations without anesthetics and proper instruments.

The Decree 770 did brought some success in raising the population but it cost the country many lives of women. Romania experienced a baby boom through the years of Nicolae Ceausescu but it began to end in 1980’s where the birth rate began to decrease.  The Decree also killed thousands of women by the end of the regime in 1989. The death was caused by illegal abortions and miscarriages that were conducted and happened.  Because of this, the decree became infamous throughout the world and showed the brutality of Ceausescu.

See Also:
Mussolini's Battles: The Battle for Births

David, H. From Abortion to Contraception : A Resource to Public Policies and Reproductive Behavior in Central and Eastern Europe From 1917 to the Present. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Deletant, D. Ceau┼čescu and the Securitate: Coercion and Dissent in Romania, 1965-1989. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1995.

Kligman, G. The Politics of Duplicity: Controlling Reproduction in Ceausescu's Romania. California: University of California Press.

Litosseliti, L. & J. Sunderland. Gender Identity and Discourse Analysis. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub., 2002.

Tolz, V. & S. Booth. Nation and Gender in Contemporary Europe. New York: Manchester University Press, 2005.

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