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News 27 Oct 17

Communist Albania Saw Increased Abortions, Infant Mortality

A study analysing demographics in Albania from 1960 to 1980 reveals that despite the Communists' efforts to increase the population, abortions and infant mortality rates rose significantly.

Fatjona Mejdini
A propaganda image from Communist archives, intended to encourage women to have children. Photo: Union of Working Women

A study of demographic developments in Communist Albania from 1960 to 1980, published on Friday, shows that many more women had abortions despite the pressure from the state to have children.

The study, presented by Celo Hoxha, historian and vice-director of the Institute for the Studies of Communist Crimes at a conference on 'Scientific and Cultural Approach to Totalitarianism', also says that the number of infant deaths rose significantly during the period.

According to the study, based on the Communist authorities' data, there were 209,173 registered abortions from 1960 to 1980, even though abortion was a criminal act, while the real number is believed to be higher since many women would have abortions outside clinics, risking their lives to escape the penalties.

"In 1960 in Albania, there were 5.6 times more abortions than in 1951, in 1989 there were 7.55 times more than in 1960, and 42.2 times more than in 1951," the report says.

When the Communists took power in Albania in 1946, they decreed that the population should rise in order to create a self-sustainable economy and strong military force.

The regime will financially and morally rewarded mothers with many children, but made those who remained single or childless to pay penalties and suffer social disapproval.

As result of this pressure, from 1960 to 1980, the general population increased from 1.61 million to 2.67 million people.

But the report says that poor living conditions in Albania and the fact that women had to do tough jobs while carrying children made them have abortions and report them as miscarriages.

"According to health ministry reports, more than 85 per cent of abortions were listed as spontaneous, while the rest were considered to have been provoked and because of medical conditions," it says.

However doubt was expressed about whether the studies were accurate.

According to the study, the high number of abortions enraged Communist officials.

"The abortions were seen as an economic loss that they were creating for the state. The interruption of the pregnancy without specialist help would leave women in hospitals for a long time, without being able to go to work," it says.

The study also emphasises the high rate of mortality among babies as a result of dire living and what was often a lack of food and medicines.

"From 1960-80 in Albania, an average of 6,056 children a year died of the total 127,189 children, or 86.3 out of every 1,000 births," it says.

According to the study, infant deaths as a percentage of the total number of deaths almost doubled under Communism.

"During the analysis timeframe, the death of babies at a national level made up 35.6 per cent of the total deaths. At the end of the 1930s and the beginning of the 1940s, babies' deaths made up 18.5 per cent of the total deaths," it says.

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