Abortion in Romania
Abortion in Romania is currently legal as an elective procedure during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, and for medical reasons at later stages of pregnancy. In the year 2004, there were 216,261 live births and 191,000 reported abortions, meaning that 46% of the 407,261 pregnancies that year ended in abortion.
During the communist regime
In 1957, the procedure was officially legalized in Romania, following which 80% of pregnancies ended in abortion, mainly due to the lack of effective contraception. By 1966, the national birthrate had fallen from 1960's 19.1 per 1,000 to 14.3 per 1,000, a decline that was attributed to the legalization of abortion nine years previous. In an effort to ensure "normal demographic growth", Decree 770 was authorized by Nicolae Ceaușescu's government. The decree criminalized abortion except in the following cases:
- women over 45 (lowered to 40 in 1974, raised back to 45 in 1985)
- women who had already delivered and reared four children (raised to five in 1985)
- women whose life would be threatened by carrying to term due to medical complications
- women who were pregnant through rape or incest
The effect of this policy was a sudden transition from a birth rate of 14.3 per 1000 in 1966 to 27.4 per 1000 in 1967, though it fell back to 14.3 in 1983.
Initially, this natalist policy was completed with mandatory gynecological revisions and penalties for single women over 25 and married couples without children, but starting in 1977, all "childless persons", regardless of sex or marital status, were fined monthly "contributions" from their wages, whose size depended on the sector in which the person worked. The state glorified child-rearing, and in 1977 assigned official decorations and titles to women who went above and beyond the call of duty and had more than the required number of children.
Ceaușescu promoted gender equality, but also desired to increase the nation's population. In his rhetoric, he stressed the "distinguished role and noble mission" found in child-rearing, and promised state-sponsored assistance in the form of childcare centers, accessible medical care, maternity leave, and work protection so that women could have multiple children and remain in the workforce. Unfortunately, the government was unable to provide much of this assistance, leaving many families in difficult situations.
Enforcement and its effects
To enforce the decree, society was strictly controlled. Motherhood was described as "the meaning of women's lives" and praised in sex education courses and women's magazines, and various written materials were distributed detailing information on prenatal and child care, the benefits of children, ways to ensure marital harmony, and the consequences of abortion. Contraceptives disappeared from the shelves and were soon only available to educated urban women with access to the black market, many of them with Hungarian roots. In 1986, any woman working for or attending a state institution was forced to undergo at least annual gynecological exams to ensure a satisfying level of reproductive health as well as detect pregnancy, which were followed until birth. Women with histories of abortion were watched particularly carefully.
Medical practitioners were also expected to follow stringent policies and were held partially responsible for the national birthrate. If they were caught breaking any aspect of the abortion law, they were to be incarcerated, though some prosecutors were paid off in exchange for a lesser sentence. Each administrative region had a Disciplinary Board for Health Personnel, which disciplined all law-breaking health practitioners and on occasion had show trials to make examples of people. Sometimes, however, punishments were lessened for cooperation. Despite the professional risks involved, many doctors helped women determined to have abortions, recognizing that if they did not, she would turn to a more dangerous, life-threatening route. This was done by falsely diagnosing them with an illness that qualified them for an abortion, such as diabetes or hepatitis, or prescribing them drugs that were known to counter-induce pregnancy, such as chemotherapy or antimalarial drugs. When a physician did not want to help or could not be bribed to perform an abortion, however, women went to less experienced abortionists or used old remedies.
From 1979 to 1988, the number of abortions increased, save for a decline in 1984-1985. Despite this, many unwanted children were born, as their parents could scarcely afford to care for the children they already had, and were subsequently abandoned in hospitals or orphanages. Some of these children were purposely given AIDS-infected transfusions in orphanages; others were trafficked internationally through adoption. Those born in this period, especially between 1966 and 1972, are nicknamed the decreţei (singular decreţel), a word with a negative nuance due to the perceived mental and physical damage due to the risky pregnancies and failed illegal abortions. Over 9,000 women died between 1965 and 1989 due to complications arising from illegal abortions.
This policy was reversed in 1990, after the Romanian Revolution, and, since that time, abortion has been legal on request in Romania.
There have been attempts to restrict the practice of abortion, such as in 2012, when Sulfina Barbu, a MP of the Democratic Liberal Party proposed a legislative initiative, requiring women wanting to undergo an abortion to attend psychological counseling sessions, and to "reflect" for five days. Such attempts have been claimed to be motivated by the demographic downfall of Romania; and have been strongly criticized.
Legal framework under the 2014 Penal Code
The new Penal Code, which came into force in 2014, regulates the procedure of abortion. Article 201 (1) punishes the performing of an abortion when done under any of these following circumstances: (a) outside medical institutions or medical offices authorized for this purpose; (b) by a person who is not a certified physician in the domain of obstetrics and gynecology and free to practice this profession; or (c) if the pregnancy has exceeded fourteen weeks. An exception to the fourteen weeks limit is provided by section (6) of Article 201, which stipulates that performing an abortion is not an offense if done for therapeutic purposes by a certified doctor until twenty-four weeks of pregnancy, and even after the twenty-four weeks limit, if the abortion is needed for therapeutic purposes "in the interest of the mother or the fetus". If the woman did not consent to the abortion; if she was seriously injured by the procedure; or if she dies as a result of it, the penalties are increased - sections (2) and (3) of Article 201. If the acts are done by a doctor, apart from criminal punishment, the doctor is also prohibited from practicing the profession in the future - section (4) of Article 201. Section (7) of Article 201 stipulates that a pregnant woman who provokes her own abortion will not be punished.
Abortion rates after 1989
According to INSSE, the rate of abortions since 1989 is as follows
|Year||Abortions||Per 1000 women||Per 1000 live-births|
United Nations data puts the abortion rate at 21.3 abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44 years in 2010. Romania has a high prevalence of abortion: in a 2007 survey 50% of women said they had undergone an abortion during their lifetime.
- 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, a Romanian film about a pregnant student looking for an illegal abortion during the Ceauşescu regime.
- Romanian orphans
- Abortion statistics of Romania up to 2004. Retrieved 2007-08-04.
- Kligman, Gail. "Political Demography: The Banning of Abortion in Ceausescu's Romania". In Ginsburg, Faye D.; Rapp, Rayna, eds. Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995 :234-255. Unique Identifier : AIDSLINE KIE/49442.
- Scarlat, Sandra. "'Decreţeii': produsele unei epoci care a îmbolnăvit România" ("'Scions of the Decree': Products of an Era that Sickened Romania"), Evenimentul Zilei, May 17, 2005.
- Kligman, Gail. The Politics of Duplicity: Controlling Reproduction in Ceausescu's Romania. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998.
- decreţel in the 123Urban dictionary
- Abortion, only with a psychologist's approval
- Abortion, psychologist-approved only; PDL promotes a law that aims to repair the demographic disaster
- "World Abortion Policies 2013". United Nations. 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2014.