Looking Forward to the Past? On Choice(s) and the Abortion Issue in Contemporary Romania
Reproduction control (1966-1989) in communist Romania is considered to have been one of the most draconian example of biopolitics in twentieth century Europe. First day after Ceausescu’s trial and execution, the new Romanian government legalized abortion on request. Since the early 1990s, many changes have occurred in Romanian abortion governance, both in legislation and associated healthcare. For example, the (first) National Network of Family Planning was created in 1994, and in 2003 the Patient Rights Law established that ‘the right of the woman to decide whether or not to have a child is guaranteed’ (Chapter V – Reproductive Rights, Article 28).
Nevertheless, numerous controversies surrounding abortion legislation have occurred in recent years, on the background of a massive demographic decline and the rise of religious influence in contemporary society. Since 2009, regular Marches for Life have been organized in Romania’s major cities, and a growing number of pro-life groups are developing strong anti-abortion campaigns, especially online. As a direct consequence, more and more cases of conscientious objection are reported among the obstetricians and gynecologists working in public hospitals. This practice, not officially regulated, is strongly supported by BOR (the Romanian Orthodox Church).
Drawing on partial results of a long-term ethnography concerning reproduction control in post-communist Romania, financed by a Marie Curie-CIG grant (2013-2017), in paper I analyze the way women’s reproductive rights are challenged in contemporary Romanian society by the ever-increasing anti-abortion lobby. What are the main strategies of the anti-abortion lobby? To what categories of population is it primarily targeted, and why? Could the emerging pro-life movement determine a shift in abortion governance in post-communist Romania, as the ‘rights of the unborn’ are more and more present in contemporary medical and political debates?
Lorena Anton is Research Scientist (ro. CSIII) in Medical Humanities at ICUB-H, University of Bucharest (Romania), where she is disseminating the results of her former FP7-PEOPLE-Marie Curie-CIG project REPROAB, Controlling Reproduction in Post-Communist Romania: The Abortion Issue (2013-2017) and has recently initiated an exploratory research on Ageing, Memory and Health In Romanian Local Communities (research project no. 1358/2016, founded by University of Bucharest). Her recent publications include A Fragmented Landscape. Abortion Governance and Protest Logics in Europe (edited with Silvia de Zordo & Joanna Mishtal), New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2016, and Cultural Memory. In Protest Cultures. A Companion (eds. K. Fahlenbrach et al.). New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2016, pp. 130-136.