November 1920-2020: A Century of Abortion in Russia

By the 1970s, the USSR was averaging 7-8 million abortions per year. To this day, the countries with the highest abortion rates remain communist or recently communist: Russia, Cuba, Romania, Vietnam, China.

(Image: Steve Harvey/Unsplash.com)

Kudos to Rachel’s Vineyard and the Sisters in Jesus the Lord (as well as Jennifer Roback Morse at the Ruth Institute) for marking the centennial of a tragic moment. It was 100 years ago, November 18, 1920, that the Bolshevik regime in Soviet Russia legalized abortion. It was a moment of terrible consequence for Russia and the world.

“We are hoping that this anniversary will not pass unnoticed and that it will be an occasion of praying for an end to abortion in the whole world,” says Mother Maria Stella Whittier, a nun with Sisters in Jesus the Lord. “We invite all clergy and laypeople around to world to pray with us on this day—each in their own way and ability—and to repent by showing even the smallest restraint.” They are urging people worldwide to join them in prayer for the defense of unborn children this November 18th.

Amen to that. What happened on that date was truly a landmark, for it was a day of infamy.

Abortion was legalized by the Bolsheviks soon after they seized power. Their revolution commenced in St. Petersburg in October 1917, followed immediately by a brutal civil war from 1918-21, which (according to historian W. Bruce Lincoln) would leave some seven million Russian men, women, and children dead. But that was nothing compared to the deaths of the unborn that commenced when the Bolsheviks legalized abortion in November 1920.

Interestingly, Russians were not free to own a farm or factory or business or bank account—or go to church—under the Bolsheviks. As for Russian women, communists seized their fur coats as well as their bank accounts. You could no longer get your baby baptized. And yet, if you wanted an abortion (or a divorce), the sky was the limit. In that very narrow area, you had complete freedom.

In November 1920, having overthrown the ship of state and butchered (literally chopped into pieces) the entire Romanov family in July 1918, the Bolsheviks made good on Vladimir Lenin’s June 1913 promise (printed in Pravda) for an “unconditional annulment of all laws against abortions.” Very much akin to their later progressive progeny in the West, the Soviets issued their decree under the guise of “women’s health.” Lenin’s decree was titled “On the Protection of Women’s Health.” Abortion was made fully available and free of charge to Russian women.

As often happens when a certain vice is legalized, society saw more of it—and then some. The number of abortions skyrocketed. Remarkably, by 1934 Moscow women were having three abortions for every live birth—shocking ratios that American women, in the worst throes of Roe v. Wade, never approached.

It was soon so out of control that even eugenicist Margaret Sanger was taken aback. Like many political pilgrims and Potemkin progressives of her day, the Planned Parenthood matron made a pilgrimage to the USSR in the 1930s to learn from the Soviet “great experiment”—as John Dewey, the ‘Modern Father of Experiential Education’, put it. Those admirers included Sanger’s pal George Bernard Shaw and her boyfriend H. G. Wells (one of several boyfriend she had while married). Sanger went to the USSR in the summer of 1934. She was enticed by Lenin’s and Stalin’s advancements in birth control, which she eagerly shared in the June 1935 edition of her Birth Control Review, in an article titled, “Birth Control in Russia.”

“Theoretically, there are no obstacles to birth control in Russia,” marveled Sanger. “It is accepted … on the grounds of health and human right.” Showing that she was way ahead of her time, she said of the United States: “We could well take example from Russia, where there are no legal restrictions, no religious condemnation, and where birth control instruction is part of the regular welfare service of the government.”

It took American progressives some time to catch up to Stalin’s policies on birth control, but they’re there now.

Notably, however, while Sanger was highly positive about birth control in Russia, she was aghast at the sudden proliferation in abortion, which seemed to have spun out of control so quickly that Bolshevik central planners did not even know how many were taking place. “The total number is not known,” she reported, “but the number for Moscow alone is roughly estimated at 100,000 per year.”

Joseph Stalin had an estimate. In fact, the proliferating numbers actually worried him. By 1936, the toll was so staggering that an appalled Stalin, not exactly a great humanitarian, sought to get a grip. He banned abortion that year. He seriously contemplated that there might be no future Russia if this madness continued.

For the record, not all of Stalin’s comrades were on board. His erstwhile ally, Leon Trotsky, then in forcible exile, howled in protest. In his book The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky had insisted that “revolutionary power gave women the right to abortion” as “one of her most important civil, political and cultural rights.” This was implicit to Trotsky’s vision of the “new family.” To get there, he said, “the old family continues to dissolve far faster.” Nothing better to help the dissolution than abortion.

“You cannot ‘abolish’ the family,” lectured Trotsky. “You have to replace it.”

There, Trotsky was amending Marx and Engels, who had declared in their Communist Manifesto: “Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the communists.”

Just in case the process of abolition wasn’t moving along quick enough—as with the abolishing of private property, capital, religion, and (in the words of Marx and Engels) “all morality”—the Bolsheviks were willing to give a shove.

Eventually, the Trotsky view prevailed among communists, literally outliving Stalin, who had his date with the Grim Reaper on March 5, 1953. With Stalin dead, abortion was rushed back in. A more progressive Nikita Khrushchev put things back in order in 1955, reversing Stalin’s abortion ban, and thereby enabling abortion rates to ascend to heights unwitnessed in human history. One authoritative source from the late 1960s, Professor H. Kent Geiger, in his Harvard University Press work, reported: “one can find Soviet women who have had twenty abortions.”

By the 1970s, according to official Soviet Health Ministry statistics, the USSR was averaging 7-8 million abortions per year, annihilating whole future generations of Russian children. Only recently, under Vladimir Putin, who faced a projected population plunge from 140 million Russians in 2000 to 104 million by 2050 (according to World Health Organization projections), has Russia put restrictions on abortion and created policies to encourage fertility.

Think about those numbers: 7-8 million abortions per year! We often stare in incomprehension at the number of Russians who died in World War I (more than any other nation), in World War II (at least 20 million dead, again more than any other nation), or that were killed by their own government via purges, famine, the Gulag. The total number of Soviet citizens dead at the hands of communism range from 20 million (according to The Black Book of Communism) to 60-70 million “annihilated by Stalin alone” (according to Alexander Yakovlev).

And yet, the death toll produced by Soviet abortion takes the prize. We’re looking at possibly 70-80 million abortions in the USSR in the 1970s alone.

When Our Lady of Fatima looked to Bolshevik Russia with motherly concern and pain, we see why. The tragedy there is hard to even comprehend.

Of course, this compulsion for legal abortion was in no way merely an aberration under the Bolsheviks. Communists generally would aggressively advocate abortion. Long before American pro-choice liberals were touting slogans such as, “This is my body” (which, chillingly, is an inversion of the precise sacrificial words of Jesus Christ) or “My body, my choice” or “Keep your hands off my body,” communist women in Germany in the 1920s were urging abortion under the slogan “Your body belongs to you.” In so many areas, including radical changes in sexuality, communists were simply a few decades ahead of American progressives, with the latter eventually catching up to the communists or evolving to their position.

To this day, the countries with the highest abortion rates remain communist or recently communist: Russia, Cuba, Romania, Vietnam, China. Of course, no state has surpassed China’s wickedness toward the unborn. Many if not most of China’s abortions were compelled by the regime’s one-child policy launched over 40 years ago, one of the most severe infringements on family life ever inflicted by a government. The death toll from that single policy is hard to even calculate let alone mentally and emotionally assimilate.

Consistent with communist philosophy, these liberalized abortion policies were presented as an emancipation of women. Progressives today celebrate them. One of the most hideous modern developments that I track and write about is the communism-was-good-for-women canard that the progressive left is pushing in our universities. It’s so perverse that I included a chapter on the phenomenon in my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism. I regularly receive distraught emails from young people telling me about a teacher or professor (or the New York Times) informing them that communism is wondrously liberating for women.

I first noticed this some 20 years ago when researching a commissioned survey of high-school civics texts. I reviewed dozens of texts used by school districts throughout the country. In those texts, there was not only no condemnation of communism vis-à-vis women, but, quite the contrary, praising of communism as something good for women. I could give many examples, but the first one—and typical in nature—that struck my eye was a popular text titled simply The World’s History. In one passage, on page 618, the authors (i.e., academics from our universities) asserted this when writing of life under Soviet communism: “legally speaking, Russian women were better off than women anywhere in the world.”

Huh? This was the 1920s. It was life under Lenin and Stalin. Which fabulous rights did Russian women gain?

Stunned by that absurd statement, I got my explanation in the next sentence: Russian women, the authors explained, received access to abortion. Among the great strides on behalf of Soviet women were “effective birth-control methods,” which, heralded the textbook for high schoolers, “became so common that it [i.e., abortion] was once again outlawed for a time after 1936.” Russian women got abortion, and hence “legally speaking … were better off than women anywhere in the world.”

What other right does a woman need, eh?

Sarcasm aside, the reality is that this is nothing to celebrate. The centenary of the legalization of abortion by Bolshevik Russia is something to remember somberly. We should pray not only for this horrible loss to humanity, but that nations today will cease to follow this same deadly path of human destruction.

Related at CWR:
“The Radical Assault on Marriage and Family, from Karl Marx to Justice Kennedy” (May 5, 2018): An interview with Dr. Paul Kengor by Carl E. Olson
“Communism, the New York Times, and ‘reproductive rights'” (Aug 23, 2017) by Dr. Paul Kengor


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About Dr. Paul Kengor 51 Articles
Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century, Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage, and, most recently, The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism's Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration.

13 Comments

  1. Pro-lifers need to remember the dictum Ora et Labora. Pray and work. It is not enough to pray to end abortion. Pro-life people must convince society of the evils of fornication, contraception, and divorce. Unless those issues–contraception most especially–are tackled as well, abortion isn’t going anywhere.
    .
    Unfortunately, a lot of pro-life people are steeped in those very problems themselves and don’t see them as problems.

    • I’d add trafficking to the list also. Any number of expectant mothers seen at pregnancy help centers are victims of that. One pregnant 15 year old had been trafficked to men by her own mother.

      • I would say that trafficking is the end result of fornication/contraception, etc. It is sex for pleasure, not procreation. Not that sex has to be a dreary, dull, unpleasurable affair, but that isn’t the point is sex. The point is to get a baby. That’s the point; that’s the purpose. I can’t think of any pro-lifer who would approve of trafficking. The de-facto approval of fornication/contraception (IVF and even divorce) are pretty much ubiquitous in the pro-life community.

        • But you are correct–trafficking is only now getting any kind of attention. There will be more of it once Biden/Harris (should they obtain office) opens the borders.

  2. If anybody doubts the death,misery,destruction and lack of conscience and rotting of the human soul.One has only to see the chirping of crickets by the MSM/socialist democrats at and during the March For Life.One has only to view the socialist/democrat convention of 2012 in Charlette North Carolina.The screaming howling mob on the convention floor waving their Abortion signs over their heads.While their leaders{some drunk}howled back from the stage of Evil.Yet here we are in 2020 with Biden/Harris on the cusp of power.Satan is smiling.

  3. Thank you, Dr. Kengor, always and especially today. If we have any humanity left, this is not an anniversary that should have passed unremarked.

  4. Thank you , for helping to reveal the ‘ maze of the human self will ‘ as it plays out in the histories of nations and persons ,as in the words of Bl.Mother as the errors of Russia – that has denied the gratitude owed to The Father , through the God given Father figure of The Church , for ? centuries – ? from ignorance in earlier times !

    Ironic and ? Providential that today is also Feast day of Dedication of Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul ..

    the pride and ? even blasphemy , with its roots , in the Icon Of Hagia Sophia with the Lord ? equated to the ( she as created ) Wisdom mentioned in O.T . denying His mission to reveal The Father , the target of the enemy wrath and the deep roots of Russia too with that ‘ Mother Church ‘ ..

    Bl.Mother’s calls to build shrines and churches where she has appeared ,as well as the call for The Consecration , to ? also help undo the unholy ties , thus breakdown the walls of the divides , to help the children to give glory and praise to The Father as He deserves ..with the Oneness in the Divine Will as does our The Lord with our Mother , for our hearts too , to know how to take in His holiness at ever deeper levels , for the Spirit to find suitable enough dwelling places in the body and soul , as a source of good , for even generations , for the creation at large ..

    The Reign of The Divine Will .. to help undo the carnal fires and hatreds , which rages all the more when they are fed , by breaking the seals of hell , in every satanic sacrifice of sins against life and purity in marriage .

    Loving God the way we are meant to , thanking Him , adoring Him , seeing His love for us , in each heart beat , every breath , every aspect of creation , every moment in the Act of Redemption and Sanctification – to help undo the alienations and self will that makes holiness and purity seem impossible ..

    Hope the focus on Russia does not lead to yet another round of blaming the Papacy and instead , as mentioned in the article below , would be a time to have more oneness , in the Divine Will , thanking the heavens for the deeper unity between The Churches and even other faiths that too yearn to know the Truth of the identity and destiny of human life and may His blessings be with all who too share in that zeal , with the Holy Father on down –

    https://catholicprophecy.info/Has%20Russia%20Been%20Consecrated%20to%20the%20Immaculate%20Heart%20of%20Mary.pdf

  5. Rachel’s Vineyard and the ‘Sisters in Jesus the Lord’ have done us a great favor. Russia is leading the world into its inevitable population collapse. Since the mid sixties world deaths have exceeded births. When Sr. Lucy was asked about the ‘Secret’ and telling it to the world. She said, after 1963/5 because the reason would be clearer by then. The worst error of Russia is certainly abortion. Russia’s own population shrinks every year by a huge number. They lead the world’s certain collapse along with their political child Communist China. The ‘West’ is not far behind.

  6. Man decides who lives and who dies, and Man free from history and traditional impediments, unshackled from myth and superstitious religious belief, reasonably determines his future. From Jacques Rousseau’s Emile, Robespierre’s Jacobin Society of the Friends of the Constitution, Marx’s Manifesto, Russian Bolshevism to Progressivism in America the fundamental break is with God, Author of life and of the order of nature and morality. All those named emerged from the Christian milieu, all determined that liberty is antithetical to traditional moral codes and beliefs. Dr Kengor does excellent research identifying abortion as initially conceived in communist Russia as a health care issue, impressing the visiting Margaret Sanger with that logical conclusion for a Godless society. That is why Michigan Republican election observers who cited 71% mismatched returns were accused of racism. Verbally attacked threatened with violence. Racists because anyone who is not on the side of socialist progress whatever the just reason for their complaint is a systemic fascist racist. They have to be because they are not woke, not liberated from their oppressive beliefs. Unfortunately our USCCB remains handicapped with Global shades of Pachamamma blinders. We’re in for an historically unparalleled persecution in America, if the presidential contest proceeds as indicated, that is practicing Catholics, Christians, Constitutionalists, the ethically sane in what is by all appearance a godless cultural revolution. Our beliefs and morals make us the perceived enemy, whereas it is our beliefs and morals that can save them from ultimate irreversible destruction.

  7. This was an interesting and troubling read that raised many different questions for me. At a metaphysical level, there is no question that the mass destruction of human life is a profound moral and spiritual evil. Having read the magisterial histories of the Russian Revolution (Richard Pipes; Robert Conquest) and Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, however, I can only imagine what it was like to live in Soviet Russia under Stalin. No one was safe; anyone, at any time, could be falsely accused of sedition and sent to the gulags. This included many children. From a practical standpoint, would people want to bring children into that system, into that life? I don’t want that to sound like an excuse or justification, but I’m just thinking in terms of the terrible realities that people faced under Soviet rule.

  8. I had no idea it was that bad in Russia. How awful.
    One quick note — Margaret Sanger was indeed appalled by abortion in Russia. She was not at all against abortion per se, but she thought it was an unpleasant operation (which it is) with some danger to the mother, and so birth control and sterilization were better. She believed most people should be sterilized, forcibly if necessary. She was nothing if not practical. From a practical standpoint, of course, that is simpler and less unpleasant “solution.” One hesitates to imagine what the drop in births if Sanger’s plans had been followed would have amounted to, but as she posited that up to 70% of America’s population was unfit to breed and the rest should have hardly any children… well, do that math.

  9. Confused about the statement that Trotsky outlived Stalin. Was it Trotsky’s ideas that outlived Stalin? Because Stalin had Trotsky murdered in 1940.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. November 1920-2020: A Century of Abortion in Russia – On God's Payroll
  2. Cem anos atrás,a Rússia comunista legalizava o aborto – Academia Geopolítica

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