Decree 770 was a Romanian law issued by Nicholas Ceausescu in 1967 that essentially made woman vessels for breeding children in a state with a declining population.

Overnight, women could not get birth control and pregnancy termination was made illegal, even when a fetus was tragically deformed. There were exemptions only for women over the age of 45, who had borne five or more children, women whose lives would be threatened by carrying a pregnancy to term, or women who were pregnant through rape or incest. The generations born in 1967 and 1968 were the largest in history, and many of those children ended up in orphanages.

The cost to the society was high … higher than the cost to support the aging population would likely have been. Children of the decree were sicker than most, especially if they’d spent any time in an orphanage. In the 1970s, blood transfusions designed to make them healthier gave a whole generation of children AIDS. Child mortality ballooned. Women tried to self- abort with tragic consequences, and maternal childbed mortality was the highest in Europe, ten times that of its neighboring countries.

So it was shocking … there is no other word for it … to hear Governor Paul LePage declare that ending access to abortion is critical to Maine sustaining its population, as he did earlier this week.

His remarks followed the release of an ad by Planned Parenthood’s political arm, critical of LePage on women’s health issues. He told a television reporter that Planned Parenthood should “do the right thing. Maine has more people dying than being born. Do the right thing.”

He’s made comments like this at other times, usually among “friendly” audiences, such as the Maine Right to Life Committee.


But he has done more than talk, unfortunately for families of Maine.

In 2012, LePage eliminated $400,000 in state grants to the Family Planning Association of Maine. Two clinics were forced to close for lack of funding, others had to cut back hours and services. Earlier this year, LePage vetoed a bill that would have expanded MaineCare coverage of birth control and preventative care such as mammograms and Pap tests for 14,000 women earning less than $23,000 per year. The bill wouldn’t have covered abortion, which can’t be paid for with federal dollars.

The “right thing” is not to have more children than one can afford or wants, even for the benefit of the state. Support for children already born and their mothers isn’t so robust … again, thanks to LePage … that having a child every year is a good choice for anyone.

Instead, LePage should focus on the reasons that the population is declining. The high cost of living, the low wages, the lack of job opportunity, lack of health insurance for people clinging to the bottom rung of the working class ladder, the extraordinarily expensive cost of educating Maine students in Maine. These are all issues LePage could attempt to address.

Start with an increase to minimum wage. Reinstate a renter’s rebate. Make college tuition free for in-state students earning less than 400 percent of the poverty rate. Take the federal Medicaid money to expand MaineCare for 70,000 people who suffer in silence today. Help people start their own small businesses with state grants or loans. Put a leash on energy companies who want to increase their shareholders’ bottom lines on the backs of Maine’s working poor.

All these things are things that might encourage families to be willing to produce another hostage to fortune. Forcing them to do so is not the answer. Romania’s experience was not a net positive. We need to learn from it.

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