"They broke my mouth trying to make me swallow the leaflets that members of my group had distributed throughout Havana. Afterwards I spent three days brutally besieged, imprisoned in my own home with my two children, with no water, no electricity, no food, no cigarettes. We heard what the huge speakers never stopped amplifying, allegorical songs to the country, the necessary punishment of traitors, and anyone who wanted to could shout at me, organized, of course, the slogans they pleased: Comrade worm, we are going to execute you by firing squad!"
|Elena Ceaușescu and Nicolae Ceausescu|
During the 1950’s, Romanian women were entering the workforce and having fewer children. By the 1960’s, abortion became a common practice, because there were very few birth control options available to women to prevent pregnancy. This began a sharp dip in the country’s birth rate. The Communist Party wanted the population to increase from 23 million to 30 million in a single year, so they enacted Decree 770. After the change of law in 1967, and women no longer had access to birth control, the number of babies born that year skyrocketed to roughly double what they had been the year before. Thousands of new preschools and nursery schools had to be built. Orphanages were overflowing with children whose parents could not afford them. Aside from making abortions illegal and taking contraception off of store shelves, women’s bodies were literally policed. Decree 770 forced women to visit the gynecologist once a month to check for pregnancy, and police officers stood in the halls to make sure women complied. If a woman was pregnant, the doctors followed her progress very closely. Wealthy women were able to buy birth control pills and condoms on the black market, but poor women did not have that option. There were some cases where women caught the pregnancy before the doctors did, and some women died while attempting to give themselves an at-home abortion. The policy continued until the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980’s.
Hundreds of thousands of children were subjected to this in Romania, and millions of women were forced to have children.
International Women's Day should be a day to celebrate democracy and markets as instruments for the empowerment of women, and observe closely the dystopian record for women under communist regimes, and resolve to resist the system that inspired Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.