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In 1966 the Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, with the objective of boosting the economy, sought to increase his country’s population from 23 million to 30 million.

To this end he passed Decree 770.

In this, Ceausescu could rightly claim to be the father of “foetal personhood”.

As if the poor people of Romania didn’t have enough problems, especially the women – the birthrate had fallen below 2 children per family, as poor people avoided having children they could not afford. Birth rate falling below 2 children per family seems to set alarm bells ringing in every political establishment. Ceausesco’s solution was the most drastic ever attempted in history.

A  Celibacy Tax was applied to single, childless and infertile people, an additional punitive burden for people in desperate poverty.

Nicknamed “menstrual police” women were forced to undergo gynecological inspections at 1-3 month intervals. The objective was to detect pregnancy at the very earliest stage, so that the woman could be supervised through pregnancy to childbirth. Non-pregnant women were interrogated as to why they were not pregnant.

If a woman experienced a natural miscarriage (natural miscarriages in early pregnancy are a frequent and normal event) she could be accused of causing an abortion and imprisoned.

All contraception and most abortion was criminalised.

The wealthy and privileged found their way around these laws, but the poor were driven to desperation, using every home-spun method possible to avoid conception and induce abortion. Mortality rates for pregnant women shot through the ceiling.

But Ceausescu’s objective was achieved. In a few short years from the application of Decree 770, the birth rate doubled.

Thousands of unwanted children were abandoned and the notorious Romanian orphanages were filled to overflowing.

A generation later Ceausescu was overthrown and executed. Some put his overthrow down to the generation of malcontents created by his Decree.