Repealing the Ban on Abortion

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2010


In 1955 the Soviet government lifted its ban on abortion (which had been in place since 1936 after an earlier period of legalization). Official pronatalism informed this policy shift: Communist authorities and medical experts hoped to fortify the nation’s reproductive capacity because they believed that illegal underground abortion adversely affected women’s procreative health to a greater extent than legal medicalized abortion. Unlike the 1920 decree that had first decriminalized the procedure, the 1955 decree recognized a woman’s right to control her reproduction. But it also emphasized that preventing abortion — illegal and legal — remained a key government objective.


“Repealing the Ban on Abortion,” an invited essay, plus primary document translations (“Repeal of the Ban on Abortion,” “For you, Comrade Men”) and selection of Soviet illustrations for SEVENTEEN MOMENTS IN SOVIET HISTORY, created by James von Geldern (Macalester College) and Lewis Siegelbaum (Michigan State University) with generous funding from an educational development grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) from 1999 to 2002. In 2014, Amy Nelson (Virginia Tech) joined the team as content curator and web director. The original site was developed in collaboration with MATRIX, the center for digital humanities and social sciences at Michigan State University. MATRIX supports and hosts the current version of the site as well.