De Jonathon von Maren, LifeSiteNews

April 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Earlier this week, LifeSiteNews reported on the “Babies Go To European Parliament” initiative, launched by a Romanian pro-life group, and noted that anti-abortion activism seems to be exploding there. This year’s March for Life, for example, is their ninth national march, and each year the numbers continue to grow.

In 2013, 23 cities in Romania participated with individual marches. In 2014, that number rose to 40, and an entire “Week for Life” was introduced. In 2015, 77 Romanian cities participated, joined by 2 from the Republic of Moldova. In 2016, the numbers spiked even more dramatically, with 110 Romanian cities and 20 Moldovan cities joining and the “Month for Life” being declared. In 2018, a total of 300 cities and villages throughout Romania and the Republic of Moldova joined. And this year, that number rose to 600.

In Bucharest, the March was organized by the Students for Life Association with the support of the Romania for Life Association. Eliza Maria Cloţea, chairman of the Students’ for Life Association and student in her fifth year at the „Carol Davila” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, addressed the crowd, noting that, “Today, life wins in 600 cities from Romania and the Republic of Moldova! Thanks to you, we are now thousands of arms stretching towards women in pregnancy crisis, showing them that we are by their side. Thanks to you, we are thousands of hearts that beat alongside unborn babies, bearing in them the desire to protect them. Thanks to you, we are thousands of voices saying, ‘Yes, I am grateful for the gift of life!’”

To find out more about the pro-life movement that is expanding exponentially in Romania, I asked Eliza Maria Cloţea a few questions to find out more.

LifeSiteNews (LSN): What is the legal and political situation regarding abortion in Romania?

Foto Raluca Ene

Eliza Maria Cloţea (Cloţea): To better understand the legal and political situation regarding abortion in Romania, it is necessary to know how things developed in time. 

In 1957, abortion was legalized by the communist regime, which believed that abortion was a sign of women`s emancipation. Although nowadays people believe that having no restrictions on abortion is a sign of democracy, few know that the ones who first made it possible were the communists.

As a consequence, Romania registered a drastic decrease in population after abortion was legalized. In 1965, 1,115,000 children were aborted and only 278,362 were born, which meant the biggest rate of abortion ever registered in this country (252 abortion /1000 women). And the biggest in the world, if we look at an older March for Life release. 

This is why, in 1966, the communist regime introduced a ban on abortion, which still had exceptions. If a woman already had four children, had heart problems or other conditions, she could still have an abortion. The purpose of this ban was not a pro-life one. It was a measure for population growth that would increase the workforce. Still, from 1966 to 1989, more than 7 million legal abortions took place. 

After the fall of communism in 1989, many laws were abolished, including the one related to abortion restrictions. In the year after, a dramatic rise in the number of abortions was registered which continued throughout the 90’s and later on. Since 1989, abortion is legal up to the 13th week and later on during the pregnancy in case of health issues related to the mother and the child. An abortion procedure can be exclusively done in an institution or medical facility and only by an Ob/Gyn. The mother has to give her consent for the procedure and no one has the legal right to force her to choose to abort. If the mother is aged below 16, she needs the consent of her parents or her tutor in order to have an abortion. 

Because of the pro-abortion mentality created in society during communism, more than 23 million children were aborted (Romania has around 22 million inhabitants) and abortion is considered not a very important issue. Currently many doctors recommend abortion with great ease. There are testimonials of some people who say they went to a doctor for pregnancy confirmation tests, and when they got the news they were pregnant, they were immediately asked: „Are you sure you want to keep this baby? You can easily have an abortion next door.” Also, in the case of investigations that show the probability of an intrauterine diagnosis for the unborn child, physicians ignore the fact that there is a probability that it can be real or not and presents the situation as a definite diagnosis, telling parents that they must have an abortion. Abortion pressures appear almost obligatory for children with Down syndrome, even if they can have a beautiful life, which they can enjoy, and can be personally and professionally accomplished.

LSN: What is public opinion about abortion? What challenges do pro-lifers face in Romania?

Cloţea: Public opinion in Romania about abortion is divided. There are people who are pro-life and do not hide this fact and constantly get involved in pro-life volunteering. There are pro-life people who are afraid of showing off their belief or prefer to just keep it for themselves. Others are ignorant or have no opinion on this issue and refuse to have an open conversation. Finally there are the strong pro-abortion ones. I tend to believe that the number of pro-life people is constantly rising, even though only a few of them show off their belief. 

Because of the abortion ban that was set by the communist regime, people, especially young people, consider that abortion is a sign of women`s emancipation, a sign of democracy and liberty. It often happens that pro-life people are labeled as communists, anti-love, anti-civilization, anti-women or simply called a threat to the well-being of the society. This is more a mentality among young adults. 

Among older people, due to communism, people rarely openly discuss such topics as abortion. When a woman experiences a pregnancy crisis, she may find herself receiving the answer that there is nothing wrong with having an abortion since it was a general practice for her mother or grandmother. 

LSN: What sort of pro-life activism takes place?

Cloţea: The most important form of pro-life activism in Romania is the March for Life, an event that takes place annually around 25th of March. In 2013, the March for Life took place in 23 cities in Romania. In 2018, it took place in about 300 cities and towns in Romania and Republic of Moldova. Every year, the visibility of the March for Life increases and, implicitly, the general interest in this problem grows. Due to this fact, people alien to pro-life issues hear for the first time the term of pregnancy crisis and start to be concerned about this fact. Some of them decide to get involved actively in the pro-life movement; others understand that they can help by not being indifferent when they hear that somebody they know is experiencing a pregnancy crisis.

In addition, March is declared the Month for Life in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. During this time, various pro-life associations develop pro-life events: film screenings, debates and trainings, pro-life storytelling workshops for children, conferences on this theme, etc. These events take place constantly during the rest of the year also.

We hope that this year there will be more than 600 cities and villages in Romania and the Republic of Moldova where the March for Life and activities dedicated to the Month for Life will be organized. The theme is „Unique from the day one” inspired, as in recent years, by the March for Life in Washington DC.

LSN: What do you want the international pro-life community to know about what is going on in Romania?

Cloţea: We would like them to know that the March for Life is taking place in hundreds of cities and places in Romania and the Republic of Moldova, and that this required a sustained effort over several years. That it has a similar theme to that of March for Life in Washington D.C. and takes place in March around 25th of March. We encourage many people involved in the pro-life field to organize Marches for Life and pro-life life events at the local level. In addition to the March for Life, the whole month of March is dedicated to life, and during this period, several pro-life events take place (the Cross for Life, film screenings, crafting banner workshops, conferences, flowers for mums) that are aiming to increase the visibility of the March for Life. 

In addition to the activities during the month March, various pro-life associations (Students for Life, Provita) have been constantly pursuing events in which they are trying to convey the message that a culture for life is a culture of love, and caring for those who are in need of our help. We are trying to be closer to women in pregnancy crisis and to encourage those around us not to be indifferent to the need to support a woman going through this situation.

Internationally, through international letters we send each year and through participation in international pro-life events, we try to encourage as many pro-life organizations around the world to organize local marches for life and to organize as many activities as possible to enhance the pro-life culture, the respect for life, and the support for women in pregnancy crisis in their communities.

We know that there are pro-life organizations and prominent personalities who invest time, resources and energy in organizing a single march for life in the capital of a country, but we also encourage local marches, even if they require more and more effort resources and seem to dissipate the power of a great march in the capital of the country.

According to Romania’s experience, I think we have the most marches for life organized locally in Europe, and we believe that a local event makes a huge contribution to the development of pro-life culture in local communities. Even if tens or hundreds of thousands of people do not necessarily participate, when a pro-life event is organized in an average or small city or even a village, people find out about it, see pro-life messages, hear news from the local press, they start to talk to each other, hear testimonies, tend to be close and understand the cause of fighting for life, then some of them decide to get involved and develop activities in their turn.

LSN: What is the pro-life movement like in Romania?

Cloţea: The pro-life movement in Romania includes the joint effort of several associations. Its history begins after the fall of communism and the most important people in the 1990-2000 decade are the poet Ioan Alexandru and Father Nicolae Tanase.

Also since then, a huge settlement with houses where women in pregnancy crisis and their children received spiritual and material help, saving in this way thousands of lives, was built by Father Nicolae Tanase in Valea Plopului-Valea Screzii. The first pro-life medical centers also appeared.

In that decade, the first communiqués of the Romanian Orthodox Church (about 87% of Romanians are Orthodox Christians) related to abortion were given.

In 2005, the PRO VITA Bucharest Association, which has been involved in the promotion of life in public space, in support and counseling activities for women in pregnancy crisis, has been established. The Association has focused in recent years on developing a legal center to engage initiatives on important social issues related to the promotion of life and family.

In 2000-2010 the first Marches for Life was organized, in Timisoara, Sibiu, Bucharest, Cluj, Satu Mare.

The Students for Life Association is involved in the history of the past decade and I will talk about it more.

In 2013, Alexandra Nadane set up the Students for Life Association in Bucharest in order to promote the culture of life among students and young people. Since 2014 SFL has been in charge of organizing the March for Life in Bucharest and, moreover, tried to identify new local organizers every year in different places in the country and abroad. And every year, new independent local organizers have appeared, developing the March for life in different cities and places in the country. Also during this period, the Romanian Orthodox Church and other cults in Romania began to actively support the pro-life civic movement.

In addition to organizing the March, SFL organizes many other actions in March, the Month for Life, and encourages other student associations to organize their own pro-life actions in March. Throughout the year, SFL involves young people in various pro-life actions: pro-life screenings, excursions to places where concrete support results can be seen in pregnancy crisis, debates, etc. 

In 2017, the Center for Counseling and Support for Parents and Children „Saint Alexandra the Empress” was opened in Bucharest, offering professional counseling and support to women in pregnancy crisis. Prior to the opening of the Center, the Association for the Support of Pregnant Women and the Family organized a training course sustained by Margaret Hartshorn, president and founder of Heartbeat International, the largest international network of women’s support centers in the pregnancy crisis, Mary Peterson, Specialist from the National Maternity Housing Coalition in the USA and Vesna Radeka, president of Serbia’s „Choose Life” Center, which owns a home for pregnant women who do not receive support from their partner or their extended family. 60 psychologists, social workers, volunteers and representatives of life organizations participated in this training, and some of them are currently opening new counseling centers for pregnant women in different cities in Romania. Based on this training and with support from the St. Alexandra Center, three independent centers were opened in other cities of the country.