When abortion was banned in Romania the results were a horror show

When abortion was banned in Romania

by digby

This piece in Foreign Policy by Amy MacKinnon about what it was like in a country that outlawed abortion is pretty chilling. And it makes a very good point: what will happen to all the unwanted children?

As lawmakers in Alabama this week passed a bill that would outlaw abortion in the U.S. state entirely, protesters outside the statehouse wore blood-red robes, a nod to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, in which childbearing is entirely controlled by the state. Hours later, the book was trending on Twitter.

But opponents of the restrictive abortion laws currently being considered in the United States don’t need to look to fiction for admonitory examples of where these types of laws can lead. For decades, communist Romania was a real-life test case of what can happen when a country outlaws abortion entirely, and the results were devastating.

In 1966, the leader of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, outlawed access to abortion and contraception in a bid to boost the country’s population. In the short term, it worked, and the year after it was enacted the average number of children born to Romanian women jumped from 1.9 to 3.7. But birthrates quickly fell again as women found ways around the ban. Wealthy, urban women were sometimes able to bribe doctors to perform abortions, or they had contraceptive IUDs smuggled in from Germany.

Yet Romania’s prohibition of the procedure was disproportionately felt by low-income women and disadvantaged groups, which abortion-rights advocates in the United States fear would happen if the Alabama law came into force. As a last resort, many Romanian women turned to home and back-alley abortions, and by 1989, an estimated 10,000 women had died as a result of unsafe procedures. The real number of deaths might have been much higher, as women who sought abortions and those who helped them faced years of imprisonment if caught. Maternal mortality skyrocketed, doubling between 1965 and 1989.

“Sometimes a woman couldn’t even tell her husband or best friend that she wanted to have an abortion as it would put them at risk as well,” said Irina Ilisei, an academic researcher and co-founder of the Front Association, a Romanian feminist group, and the Feminist Romania website.

“For many women, sexuality represented a fear and not a part of life that can be enjoyed,” Ilisei said.

Another consequence of Romania’s abortion ban was that hundreds of thousands of children were turned over to state orphanages. When communism collapsed in Romania in 1989, an estimated 170,000 children were found warehoused in filthy orphanages. Having previously been hidden from the world, images emerged of stick-thin children, many of whom had been beaten and abused. Some were left shackled to metal bed frames.

Nor did the Romanian law do much to achieve Ceausescu’s goal of dramatically increasing the population. “Making abortion illegal will not lead to women having more babies. So if the goal is to bring about more lives and to protect more lives, this is not the instrument to use,” said Maria Bucur, a professor of history and gender studies at Indiana University.

Don't think there wouldn't be such orphanages in the US. The people who are trying to end abortion have never shown the slightest interest in children. They only care about women being forced to endure childbirth against their will. What happens after that is someone's else's problem.

“We need to take into consideration the long-term consequences of legislation like this,” said Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the author of Romania’s Abandoned Children.

Starting in 2000, Nelson examined the impact that Romania’s orphanages had on children in post-communist Romania and found that many were left with severe developmental impairment and mental health issues. For some, their confinement in orphanages even had a physical impact on the size of their brains.

Nelson said that Romania offers a cautionary tale of what happens when a state tries to control reproductive rights. The new Alabama law raises questions about what kind of support the state would provide if someone doesn’t have the option of ending a pregnancy when the fetus is found to have profound birth defects.

“Does the state have the bandwidth to take care of those kids and support the families?” he said in an interview.

Clearly not. We're housing migrant kids in camps in the desert right now and nobody seems to even bother keeping track of them. Half this country doesn't care about any kids that are not their own. That's a harsh comment but I think it's true. And they are pretty selfish even when it comes to the future of their own families. They are destroying education and ignoring the immense threat of climate change. They couldn't even stand to have the First Lady do a program that encouraged children to eat their vegetables and go outside to play. They are motivated entirely by blind opposition to their political enemies and the discomfort they feel with modernity.

The abortion debate is about keeping women in a traditional role and elevating religious belief to the guiding principle in society. It's about turning back the clock. Fetuses are just a tool, not a real concern. If it's children they cared about they'd be protesting what's being done by the government in their name to hurt so many of them.