Motherhood Women’s Greatest Happiness

Abortion has dangerous consequences. Don't condemn yourself to solitude!
Abortion has dangerous consequences. Don’t condemn yourself to solitude!

One of the most controversial topics that has arisen today is abortion. Some view that pro life is the way to go. Others believe that pro choice is the reasonable route. Even in the 21’st century not all people can agree on one side or the other. Soviet Russia went through the same issue in 1955.

"Abortions performed by either trained or self-taught midwives not only maim the woman, they also often lead to death."
“Abortions performed by either trained or self-taught midwives not only maim the woman, they also often lead to death.”

In the year 1955 the Soviet Union decided to lift its previous ban on abortion which had been in place since 1936. This ban was not lifted without opposition and those who lifted the ban did not fully support the use of abortion anyway. The main supporting argument for lifting the ban was to prevent the use of underground abortion clinics. The Soviet Union was already technologically inferior compared to many Western nations and the underground clinics were even worse off than legitimate clinics. In these clinics abortions were not performed by trained doctors either, instead they were performed by midwives who were not completely trained in the procedure. As a result of the inferior technology and under qualified midwives, many deaths occurred. Medical officials and doctors urged the government to allow legal abortions to prevent women from having to resort to such unsanitary and potentially dangerous underground clinics while also continuing to increase the population of the Soviet Union.

"Stop! Now abortion seems necessary. But remember it might deprive you of the happiness of motherhood!"
“Stop! Now abortion seems necessary. But remember it might deprive you of the happiness of motherhood!”

Although abortion was now legal in the Soviet Union, it was still not something the government wanted women to do. A massive propaganda movement by medical officials was thrust onto the public urging them to stay away from abortion. The propaganda agenda had a two pronged attack one focusing on women and the second on men. The side attacking women was primarily a fear tactic to scare them away from using abortion. The propaganda focused on informing women of the serious dangers that could occur from an abortion including infertility and inflammatory disease. Although these adverse affects were seldom seen or reported, the medical officials wanted to scare women away from even trying abortion. They also tried to guilt trip women saying that if they do get an abortion it will decrease the happiness of themselves, and the rest of their family and they would be to blame.

Propaganda persuading men to discourage abortion.
Propaganda persuading men to discourage abortion.

The second prong of the propaganda attacks were aimed at men to persuade them to discourage their spouse from getting an abortion. The main goal of this propaganda was to inform men that they too have a say in the decision of abortion as it is their family as well and that women need guidance. A common phrase used in this side of the propaganda was “Motherhood a Woman’s Greatest Happiness.” These posters persuaded men that they should not allow their wife to terminate a child which would prevent them from being ultimately much happier keeping the child. Also, they informed med to guide women away from abortions because some may “turn not to a hospital but to ignorant persons without knowledge of medicine, the danger for the health and even the life of the woman is particularly great.” These propaganda messages influenced the family system into a more patriarchal. Previously women gained a stronger foothold in the Soviet Union gaining the status of “Single Mother”, but after the propaganda took hold men began to have stronger authority in the family setting.



A. Nelson

This post fits so nicely with this discussion of the changing roles of women in the Post-Stalin period:
Abortion raised so many contradictory concerns — at a time when the government was vigorously pro-natalist (due to the war casualties), it’s odd that they would re-legalize abortion. And yet legalizing abortion did signify liberalization and increased personal freedoms. There are lots of good nuggets in this post. I especially like the poster aimed at men.