Cannes Winner Tackles Illegal Abortion

This post, written by Amie Newman, originally appeared on RH Reality Check

Swashbuckling Pirates with a romantic flair. A cartoon green ogre and his fairy-tale adventures. The last installment of the wizard-boy films of which we can't seem to get enough. These are the summer movie offerings that millions of Americans will spend their days consuming over the coming heat-drenched months. A film that tackles the subject of illegal abortion in Romania? Maybe not. But at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival it was the winner of the highest honor - the coveted Palm D'or prize -- and with beauty and realism has much to say.

The film does have a bit of a fairy-tale journey itself. 4 Luni, 3 Saptamini si 2 Zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) was written and directed by Cristian Mungiu. The film was produced with an extremely low-budget and, according to Mungiu, almost didn't get made:

"Six months ago we didn't have any money to make it," Mungiu said from the stage of the Grand Lumiere Theatre.

But what's got a lot of people talking is its portrayal of two young women's experiences when trying to access an illegal abortion in 1987 in a Romania under the Nicolae Ceausescu dictatorship. At the time, two years prior to the revolution that would ultimately overthrow Ceausescu, it was a country that had seen tens of thousands of women over the previous twenty-one years surrender their lives to illegal abortion. In 1966, Ceausescu issued Decree 770-- outlawing all contraception and abortion for women under 40 (exempting those women who had already done their state-issued duty and birthed four or more children). The decree was ordered so that Ceausescu could ensure a healthy workforce for the future.

According to Planned Parenthood:
From 1966 onward, procreation became a civic duty for all fertile Romanian women. As encouragement, Ceausescu bestowed extraordinary titles upon "dutiful," childbearing women - "Heroine Mother" for having 10 or more children, "Maternal Glory" for having seven to nine children, and the "Maternity Medal" for having five or six children. Between 1967 and 1972, more than two million "children of the decree" were born.
Maybe Bush just needed to title his proposal -- the one that encouraged women on welfare to marry in order to duck poverty -- with something catchy?

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