|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2012)|
Decreţei (from the Romanian language word decret, meaning "decree"; singular decreţel) are Romanians born in the 1960s and 1970s, shortly after the communist regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu issued Decree 770, aimed at the creation of a new and large Romanian population by restricting abortion and contraception.
Origin of the decree
Before 1967, the Romanian abortion policy was one of the most liberal in Europe. Because the availability of less drastic contraceptive methods was poor, abortion was the most common means of family planning.
Through a combination of modernization of the Romanian community, the high participation of women in the labor market and a low standard of living, the number of births significantly decreased since the 1950s, reaching its lowest value in 1966. However, the leaders saw the decreasing number of births mainly as a result of the decree issued in 1957 that legalized abortion.
To counter this sharp decline of the population, the Communist Party decided that the Romanian population should be increased from 23 to 30 million inhabitants. In 1967 (1966 according to some sources), decree 770 was authorized by Ceauşescu. This decree included roughly the following: abortion and family planning was virtually declared illegal, and really only allowed for
- women over 40 (later raised to 45)
- women who had already borne four children (later raised to five)
- women whose life would be threatened by carrying to term, due to medical complications
- women who were pregnant through rape or incest
To enforce the decree, society was strictly controlled. Contraceptives disappeared from the shelves and all women were forced to be monitored monthly by a gynecologist. Any detected pregnancies were followed until birth. Secret police kept their eye on operations in hospitals closely.
Sex education was refocused primarily on the benefits of motherhood, and on the satisfaction of being a heroic mother who gives her homeland many children.
The direct consequence of the decree was a huge baby boom. Between 1966 and 1967 the number of births increased by almost 100%, and the number of children per woman increased from 1.9 to 3.7. Hastily, thousands of nursery schools were built, and the new generation was forced to participate in sports and cultural activities. The generation born in 1967 and 1968 was the largest in Romanian history.
Circumvention and mortality
In the seventies, birth rates declined again. Economic pressure on families remained, and people began to seek ways to circumvent the decree. Wealthier women were able to obtain contraceptives illegally, or bribed doctors to give diagnoses which made abortion possible. Especially among the less educated and poorer women there were many unwanted pregnancies. These women could only utilize primitive methods of abortion, which led to infection, sterility or even their own death. The mortality among pregnant women became the highest of Europe during the reign of Ceauşescu. While the childbed mortality rate kept declining over the years in neighboring countries, in Romania it increased to more than ten times of that of its neighbors.
Many children born in this period became malnourished, were severely physically handicapped, or ended up in care under grievous conditions, which led to a rise in child mortality.
In their book Freakonomics, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner make the argument that children that are born after their mothers are refused an abortion are much more likely to commit crimes or refuse to recognize authority when they hit adulthood. They further argue that the Decreţei are exactly the same people who spearheaded the effort to violently overthrow Ceauşescu's regime in 1989. In that year, the oldest Decreţei would have been 22 years old, in the general age range of most revolutionaries. Levitt and Dubner note that Romania was the only east-European communist country with strict anti-abortion and anti-contraception laws at the time, and also the only country whose ruler was violently overthrown and killed at the end of the Cold War. Most other such countries experienced a tumultuous, but peaceful, transition.
This article, or a previous version, was translated from the article "Decreet 770" on the Dutch Wikipedia. This Dutch article used the following sources:
- Children of the decree (Das Experiment 770: Gebären auf Befehl), German movie from 2004 by Florin Iepan
- "The 1966 law concerning prohibition of abortion in Romania and its consequences - the fate of one generation", Manuela Lataianu, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warschau