The feminist collective #MultumescPentruFlori (#ThankYouForTheFlowers – in reference to the fact that in Romania, 8th of March is celebrated by the Police handing out flowers to women), was the main force behind the protest which gathered around 150 people in front of the Health Ministry in Bucharest and in Iasi, in front of the Prefect’s office to demand free access to abortion.
Legal but not free or safe
Although legal in Romania since 1990, abortion access has gradually been restricted due to privatisation of healthcare services and the simultaneous involvement of evangelical churches, as well as the Romanian Orthodox Church in private matters. In 2023, the statistics are staggering: according to the National Institute of Public Health, during 2020-2021, out of 171 public hospitals, only 59 performed abortions on demand. In the first half of 2022, 13 counties in Romania reported zero abortions on demand in the public health system.
The main issue is that the same doctors refuse to perform abortions in the public healthcare sector, citing “reasons of conscience” are happy to perform the same procedures but in the private healthcare sector, where costs can reach up to 4,500 lei (900 euros) while the minimum net salary, with which a third of Romanian employees live, is only 1,863 lei (375 euros). Even so, the cost of an abortion can reach 1,000 – 1,200 lei (200-240 euros) in public hospitals because it is not covered by the social security system. This is why, one of the demands at the protest was precisely for abortions to be covered by the public healthcare insurance system.
Beyond the more practical and immediate demands at the protest, the feminist organisations involved (Pe Stop, Absorbante pentru Toate, Feminism Romania, #MultumescPentruFlori, Socialist Action Group GAS, Youth Marxist Block BTM, etc.) have specifically organised a socialist feminist protest, in which they chanted things such as “Our uterus is not your profit”, “The Capitalist State and the Romanian Orthodox Church are the real aggressors/oppressors”, “Free public healthcare for the working class”, as well as the reduction of the military budget and the redirection of the budget to healthcare and education. Other vindications included sex education in schools and the removal of religious education from schools, the implementation of public childcare options, and the feminist revolution against patriarchy and capitalism. Protesters wore a red bandana as a symbol of the blood shed by numerous women dying from lack of access to safe abortions, but also as a symbol of socialism. Moreover, they created banners and signs with clothes hangers – the symbol of unsafe abortions.
Two tragic events
|The protest took place in the context of two tragic events that happened in the past few months in Romania, that showcase the systemic violence of the capitalist system against the working class in the form of racism, classism and misogyny. |
The first one took place in July 2023, when a young pregnant woman of Roma ethnicity was denied healthcare access at the public hospital in the small town of Urziceni and gave birth to her baby on the street in front of the hospital. The hospital nurse at the emergency department told the pregnant patient that they do not have an obstetrician on duty and told her to go wait outside for an ambulance to take her to a different hospital; however the patient was already in labour and gave birth within minutes of exiting the hospital. The local authorities investigated the matter and it turns out there was a medic on duty that day, although there was no anesthesiologist and no obstetrician in the hospital. The protocol would have required nevertheless that the patient does not exit the hospital while waiting for a transfer ambulance, but in this case there was clear mishandling from the nurse. This is a case where racism against the Roma community, classism against the working class and the poor, as well as the consequences of 30 years+ of underfunding of the public healthcare sector and its gradual privatisation in a capitalist system mix together into a toxic cocktail. Soon after the incident, the mother and the baby were transferred to a bigger hospital where they were taken care of and are now healthy and safe, according to the latest reports.
The second event, tragic this time, took place in Botosani, a city in the North East part of Romania, not far from Iasi. There, a 25 year-old pregnant woman was denied safe abortion services and died from it. The mother of three was 3-month pregnant with her fourth child, but she suffered a miscarriage, and arrived at the hospital with severe pain and bleeding. The hospital staff told her she would have surgery the next day. However, during the night, her condition worsened and she started contacting the medical staff to alert them of her pain, but her messages went unanswered. At 04:18 am, Alexandra sent another text, this time to one of the doctors on duty: “I’m Ivanov Alexandra. Do you think you can do my curettage tonight because I can’t stand the pain anymore! Please from the bottom of my heart I feel like I’m going crazy” – but the message was left unanswered. The messages sent to the doctors, just a few hours before she died, were found in the young woman’s phone. In the last message, sent at 06:40 am to her husband, the woman wrote: “I can’t take it anymore” At 07:30 am the young woman went into shock. She was moved to the Intensive Care Unit where resuscitation manoeuvers were applied but at 08:20 am death was declared.This tragic event shows once again what happens when capitalism (and patriarchy) dissolves the public sector into empty shells of dysfunctioning units. Indeed, Romania’s public healthcare sector has been suffering from chronic underfunding for the past 30+ years (and even 40 years adding in the decade of IMF-imposed austerity in the 1980s). Moreover, systemic misogyny is plaguing Romanian institutions, and is leaving women prey to obstetrical violence on a daily basis.
“Vrem avortul garantat ca serviciu decontat!”
“1, 2, 3, 4, avortam patriarhatul”
“Nu sta deoparte, nu mai fi trista, facem impreuna revolutia feminista”
“Uterul nostru nu e profitul vostru”
“Avorturi gratuite si sigure”
“BOR-ule nu te baga, avortul nu e treaba ta!”
“Stat capitalist si BOR = cel mai mare agresor”
“Nu ne este frica sa facem scandal, accesul la avort e drept fundamental!”
“Nu dati banii publici pe militarizare/ Dati acces la sanatate clasei muncitoare!”
“Avort interzis inseamna femicid”
“Vrem crese de stat, nu patriarhat!”
“Numai stat, fara privat!”
“Militarizarea o tot finantati, dar avortul nu il decontati?”
“Afara BOR din scoala, vrem educatie sexuala”
“Ne-am saturat de nedreptate/ Nu vrem flori/ Ci acces la sanatate!”
“We want guaranteed abortion as a public service!”
“1, 2, 3, 4, we abort the patriarchy”
“Don’t stay away, don’t be sad, let’s make the feminist revolution together”
“Our womb is not your profit”
“Free and safe abortions”
“Don’t bother, BOR (Romanian Orthodox Church), abortion is none of your business!”
“Capitalist state and BOR = the biggest aggressor”
“We are not afraid to make a scandal, access to abortion is a fundamental right!”
“Don’t spend public money on militarization/ Give access to health to the working class!”
“Prohibited abortion means femicide”
“We want public nurseries, not patriarchy!”
“Only public services, no privatization!”
“You still finance militarization, but you don’t fund abortion?”
“Get BOR out of our schools, we want sex education”
“We are fed up with injustice/ We don’t want flowers/ But access to healthcare!”