Decreței (from the Romanian language word decret, meaning "decree"; diminutive decrețel) are Romanians born in the late 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 contraceptive methods was poor, abortion became the foremost method of Romanian family planning.
Through a combination of Romania's postwar modernization, high participation of women in the workforce, and a low standard of living, the number of births significantly decreased after the 1950s, reaching its lowest recorded level in 1966. Romanian leaders interpreted the decreasing number of births to be a result of the 1957 decree that legalized abortion.
To counter this sharp decline in the birth rate, the Communist Party decided that the country's population should be increased from 20 million to 30 million inhabitants. In October 1966, Decree 770 was personally sanctioned by Ceaușescu. Abortion and contraception were declared illegal, except for:
- women over 45 (later lowered to 40, then raised again 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 and/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 a close eye on hospital procedures.
Sex education was refocused primarily on the benefits of motherhood, including the ostensible 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 almost doubled, and the estimated number of children per woman (TFR) increased from 1.9 to 3.7. The generation born in 1967 and 1968 was the largest in Romanian history. Hastily, thousands of nursery schools were built.
Circumvention and mortality
In the 1970s, 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 Ceaușescu. While the childbed mortality rate kept declining over the years in neighboring countries, in Romania it increased to more than ten times that of its neighbors.
A consequence of Ceaușescu's natalist policy is that large numbers of children ended up living in orphanages, because their parents could not cope with looking after them. The vast majority of children who lived in the state-run orphanages were not actually orphans, like the name implies; but simply children whose parents could not afford to look after them.
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 reach adulthood. They further argue that the Decreței are exactly the same people who spearheaded the effort to violently overthrow Ceaușescu's regime in 1989. In that year, the oldest Decreței 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. There were however[original research?] other aspects of totalitarian rule that would promote violent reaction instead of peaceful transition, including a lack of associational life and legal gatherings, a more extensive system of informants and special police than any state other than East Germany, and a cult of personality built up around the supreme leader. The actual violence of the revolution can be attributed to divisions among the ruling and military/secret police and the vacuum of power that resulted. Revolutions are often observed to come in waves, and it is believed by some authors that Romania would have experienced violent revolution no matter its demographic situation.
Abortion after 1990
Although in the early 1990s, shortly after abortion was legalized, the abortion rate was very high, it has gradually decreased, as more couples started using contraception, and the economy also started to improve after the instability of the transition. Abortion statistics, according to the National Institute of Statistics for data between 1990 and 2010 and according to Eurostat for data between 2011 and 2018.
|Year||Abortions||Per 1,000 women||Per 1,000 live-births|
- 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a 2007 film directed by Cristian Mungiu (born in 1968 under the decree). It follows two unmarried students who try to abort a pregnancy.
- Abortion in Romania
- Tales from the Golden Age
- Tax on childlessness
- The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime
- "Decretul 770/1966 - Legislatie gratuita". www.legex.ro. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
- "BBC NEWS - Europe - What happened to Romania's orphans?". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
- Gilberg, Trond. Nationalism and Communism in Romania: The Rise and Fall of Ceausescu's Personal Dictatorship Westview Press, 1990
- Katz, Mark. Revolutions and Revolutionary Waves. St Martin's Press, 1999, p. xi, 2–3
- [permanent dead link]
- "Legally induced abortions by mother's age". ec.europa.eu/eurostat. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
- "Abortion indicators". ec.europa.eu/eurostat. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
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, Warsaw
- "decrețel". dexonline (in Romanian).