Decree on the Prohibition of Abortions. June 27, 1936
Original Source: Izvestiia, 28 June 1936. Sistematicheskoe sobranie deistvuiushchikh zakonov Soiuza sovetskikh sotsialisticheskikh respublik (Moscow, 1936), text 309.
Decree on the Prohibition of Abortions, the Improvement of Material Aid to Women in Childbirth, the Establishment of State Assistance to Parents of Large Families, and the Extension of the Network of Lying-in Homes, Nursery schools and Kindergartens, the Tightening-up of Criminal Punishment for the Non-payment of Alimony, and on Certain Modifications in Divorce Legislation
The October Socialist revolution, which laid the foundation for the abolition of all class exploitation and of the classes themselves, at the same time laid the foundation for the complete and final emancipation of women.
In no country in the world does woman enjoy such complete equality in all branches of political, social and family life as in the USSR.
In no country in the world does woman, as a mother and a citizen who bears the great and responsible duty of giving birth to and bringing up citizens, enjoy the same respect and protection from the law as in the USSR.
However, the economic breakdown of the country which took place during the first years after the civil war and the armed intervention, and the inadequate cultural level of the women inherited from the pre-revolutionary epoch did not enable them at once to make full use of the rights accorded them by the law and to perform, without fear of the future, their duties as citizens and mothers responsible for the birth and early education of their children. In this connection the Soviet Government permitted on November 18, 1920, the practice of abortion (artificial interruption of pregnancy) for women so long, as the People’s Commissariat of Health and the People’s Commissariat of Justice wrote, as ” the moral heritage of the past and the difficult economic conditions of the present still force a section of the women to submit to this operation ” (Collected Laws, 1920, No. 90, art. 471).
Back in 1913 Lenin wrote that class-conscious workers are: “unquestionable enemies of neo-Malthusianism, that tendency of the philistine couple, pigeon-brained and selfish, who murmur fearfully: “May God help us to keep our own bodies and souls together: as for children, it is best to be without them.”
But, while rebelling against abortions as a social evil, Lenin considered the mere legislative banning of abortions clearly inadequate to combat them. Moreover, he pointed out that under the conditions of capitalism these laws only reflect the hypocrisy of the ruling classes,” as they “do not heal the sores of capitalism but make them particularly malignant, particularly painful to the oppressed masses ” (Collected Works, Vol. 16, pp. 498-9).
Only under conditions of socialism, where exploitation of man by man does not exist and where woman is an equal member of society, while the continual improvement of the material well-being of the toilers constitutes a law of social development, is it possible seriously to organize the struggle against abortions by prohibitive laws as well as by other means.
The abolition of capitalist exploitation in the USSR, the growth of material well-being and the gigantic growth of the political and cultural level of the toilers make it possible to raise question of a revision of the decision of the People’s Commissariats of Health and Justice of November 18, 1920.
Necessary material provision for women and their children, State aid to large families, the utmost development of the network of maternity homes, nurseries, kindergartens, legislative establishment of minimum sums which the father of a child must pay for its upkeep when husband and wife live apart, on the one hand, and prohibition of abortions on the other, coupled with an increase in the penalty for willful non-payment of the means for the maintenance of the children awarded by a court, and the introduction of certain changes in the legislation on divorce for the purpose of combating a light-minded attitude towards the family and family obligations-such are the roads which must be followed in order to solve this important problem affecting the entire population. In this respect, the Soviet Government responds to numerous statements made by toiling women.
In connection with the above, and taking into consideration certain comments made by citizens during the discussion of the draft, the CEC. and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR DECIDE:
I. On Prohibition of Abortions
1. In view of the proven harm of abortions, to forbid the performance of abortions whether in hospitals and special health institutions, or in the homes of doctors and the private homes of pregnant women. The performance of abortions shall be allowed exclusively in those cases when the continuation of pregnancy endangers life or threatens serious injury to the health of the pregnant woman and likewise when a serious disease of the parents may be inherited, and only under hospital or maternity-home conditions.
2. For the performance of abortions outside a hospital or in a hospital under conditions violating the above provisions, the doctor performing the abortion shall be criminally punishable to the extent of one to two years’ imprisonment, while for the performance of abortions under unsanitary conditions or by persons who have no special medical training a criminal penalty of not less than three years’ imprisonment shall be fixed.
3. For compelling a woman to undergo an abortion, criminal penalty of two years’ imprisonment shall be fixed.
4. In relation to pregnant women undergoing an abortion in violation of the said prohibition, to establish as a criminal penalty a social reprimand, and in the event of a repetition the violation of the law on the prohibition of abortions, a fine up to 300 rubles.
II. On Increasing Material Aid by the State to Women in Childbirth and on Establishing State Aid to Large Families
5. In order to improve the material position of mothers, both working women and employees insured in the organs of social insurance, to increase the allowance issued from the State social insurance funds for the purpose of procuring the necessary articles for infant care, from 32 rubles to 45 rubles.
6. To increase the allowance issued to the mother for nursing the infant, from 5 to 10 rubles a month.
7. In relation to uninsured women toilers, members of, cooperative artels and enterprises-to establish that the said allowances be issued by the cooperative mutual aid funds on the same basis.
8. To abolish the limitation fixed by the Code of Labor Laws for women employees (article 132), making them equal to working women in regard to the length of the leave accorded before and after childbirth (56 days before and 56 days after childbirth).
9. To establish a criminal penalty for refusal to employ women for reasons of pregnancy, for reducing their wages on the same grounds, providing in the law the obligation of preserving for the pregnant woman, while transferring her to lighter work, her former wages based on her earnings for the last six months’ work.
10. To establish a State allowance for mothers of large families: for those having six children, an annual allowance of 2,000 rubles for five years for each subsequent child from the day of its birth, and for mothers having ten children one State allowance of 5,000 rubles on the birth of each subsequent child and an annual allowance of 3,000 rubles for a period of four years following the child’s first birthday. To extend this article of the law also to those families who at the time of the publication of the law have the requisite number of children.
III. On Extension of the Network of Maternity Homes
To instruct the People’s Commissariats of Health of the constituent Republics:
11. In order to provide medical assistance in special maternity homes for all women in childbirth in cities, industrial and district centers, to establish and open by January 1, 1939, 11,000 new maternity beds of which, in addition to the 4,200 beds provided by the 1936 plan, there are to be established
- in 1936: 2,000 beds
- in 1937: 4,000 beds
- in 1938: 5,000 beds
12. In order to extend medical service to women in childbirth in rural localities, to provide, and put into use 32,000 maternity beds, of which 16,000 beds in the maternity wards of village hospitals shall be at the expense of the State budget and 16,000 beds by organizing collective farm maternity homes, 75 per cent of the cost of their organization to be charged to the collective farms and 25 per cent to the State budget.
These are to include:
- In 1936: in addition to the 4,300 maternity beds in village hospitals and the 5,000 beds in collective farm maternity homes scheduled by the 1936 plan: 4,000 beds in hospitals and 4,000 beds in collective farm maternity homes.
- In 1937: 6,000 beds in hospitals and 6,000 beds in collective farm maternity homes.
- In 1938: 6,000 beds in hospitals and 6,000 beds in collective farm maternity homes.
13. In order to provide women in childbirth who are not served by lying-in hospitals with obstetrical assistance in their homes, to open by January 1, 1939, 14,400 new obstetrical stations of which 2,700 stations are to be opened in the villages and 1,370 obstetricians appointed to the new collective farm maternity homes in 1936, 5,000 stations in the villages and 2,000 obstetricians at the new collective farm maternity homes in 1937, 6,700 stations in the villages and 2,000 obstetricians at the new collective farm maternity homes in 1938.
IV. On the Extension of the Network of Nurseries.
14. To double by January 1, 1939, the existing network nursery beds for children in the cities, State farms, workers’ settlements and on the railroads, increasing their total number”‘ to 800,000 beds by putting into service In 1936, in addition to the 34,000 beds provided by the1936 plan: .100,000 new beds
- In 1937: 150,000 new beds
- In 1938: 150,000 new beds
Total: 400,000 new beds
15. To double by January 1, 1939, the existing network of nursery beds both in permanent and seasonal collective farm nurseries in rural localities, increasing the number of beds in permanent nurseries by 500,000 and in seasonal nurseries by 4,000,000 beds, including:
In 1936, in addition to the 70,000 beds in permanent collective farm nurseries scheduled by the 1936 plan
- In seasonal nurseries in addition to the one million beds, according to the 1936 plan: 100,000 beds
- In 1937 in permanent collective farm nurseries in seasonal nurseries: 500,000 beds
- In 1938 in permanent collective farm nurseries in seasonal nurseries: 200,000 beds
The People’s Commissariats of Health of the Union Republics and the Territory, Province and District Executive Committees are to supervise the development of the above network of nurseries.
16. In cities and in industrial centers, beginning on January 1, 1937, work in nursery schools is to be in two shifts, to last sixteen hours a day, including the rest days.
17. To instruct the People’s Commissariats of Health of the Union Republics to secure the appropriate personnel for the newly opened institutions by allotting 15,000,000 rubles in addition to the appropriations made for the training of the intermediate medical personnel.
18. To instruct the People’s Commissariats of Health of the Union Republics to build during three years so as to complete by January 1, 1939, an additional 8oo new dairy kitchens ‘in the cities, industrial and district centers for the feeding of 1,500,000 children under three years of age and to open:
1936- 30 kitchens of the first category (at an estimated cost of 83,000 rubles each).
- 100 kitchens of the second category (at an estimated cost of 65,000 rubles each).
1937- 70 kitchens of the first category.
- 200 kitchens of the second category.
- 1938-100 kitchens of the first category.
- 300 kitchens of the second category.
V. On Enlarging the Network of Kindergartens
19. To triple the functioning network of permanent kindergartens in cities, factory settlements, and on railroads within three years, bringing it up to 2,100,000 places by January 1, 1939 (as against 700,000 places in the present network of kindergartens); and at State farms, plants and institutions in village localities, up to 300,000 places, as against 130,000 places of the present network, for which purpose the following must be built and put into operation:
- In 1936: In cities, factory settlements, and on railroads, in addition to 250,000 places planned according to the 1936 program 150,000 places at State farms and at enterprises and institutions in village localities, the plan for the increase of kindergartens in 1936 is to be left at the former 60,000
- In 1937: In cities, factory settlements, and on railroads 300,000 at State farms and at enterprises and institutions in village localities 60,000
- In 1938: In cities, factory settlements, and on railroads 700,000 at State farms and at enterprises and institutions in village localities 50,000
20. To open permanent kindergartens, with 700,000 places at collective farms, in addition to the existing network of 400,000 places by January 1, 1939, as follows:
- In 1936, supplementary to the planned 150,000 for 1936, 50,000 places. Total: 200,000 places
- In 1937 240,000
- In 1938 260,000
By the same date to provide all children on collective farms with seasonal playgrounds for children of pre-school age, for which purpose the following must be provided:
- In 1936 (according to the 1936 plan) 4,500,000 places
- In 1937 7,800,000
- In 1938 10,700,000
Supervision of the development of the network of kindergartens and seasonal playgrounds for children of pre-school age in village localities is to be turned over to the People’s Commissariats of Education of the Union Republics and to the Territory, Province and District Executive Committees.
21. To oblige the People’s Commissariats of Education the Union republics to train, by the second half of 1936, 50,000 teachers for the kindergartens which are to be opened, setting apart 35,000,000 rubles for this purpose in addition to the 1936 grants for the training of cadres for new kindergartens, according to the budgets of the People’s Commissariats of Education of the Union Republics.
VI. On Changing the System of Supervision of Kindergartens
22. To amend the decision of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR of July 6, 1935 (Code of Laws, No. 35, Statute 309), on concentrating the leadership and management of all kindergartens under the systems of the People’s Commissariats of Education of the Union Republics, turning over to the jurisdiction of the economic People’s Commissariats, institutions, and enterprises those kindergartens which have children of workers and employees in these institutions and enterprises, and leaving under the jurisdiction of the People’s Commissariats of Education only those kindergartens which serve small institutions and enterprises that have not their own kindergartens. To place direct leadership of the kindergartens under the administration of the enterprise or institution where the kindergarten is organized, with the participation of the factory and plant Trade Union committees and Young Communist League organizations of such plants and institutions. To reserve for the People’s Commissariats of Education of the Union Republics general pedagogical leadership and control of the correct structure of the network of the kindergartens and the training of pedagogical cadres.
The Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR is to determine the method of transferring and financing the kindergartens, and also the method of construction and financing new kindergartens in connection with the newly established system of supervision and management of kindergartens.
VII. On Financing the Above Measures
23. In accordance with this decision, to assign, over and above the sum allocated for 1936 in the State and local budgets and the social insurance budget, 1,481,300,000 rubles for maternity homes, midwifery stations, nurseries, dairies and kindergartens, additional for 1936, 692,800,000 rubles for the construction and development of the network of these institutions, increasing the general amount assigned in 1936 to 2,174,100,000 rubles as against 875,000,000 rubles in 1935
From the above-mentioned 692,800,000 rubles, to use for the construction of:
- (a) Maternity beds in cities 22,200,000 rubles
- (b) Maternity beds in villages 23,800,000 rubles
- (c) Children’s nurseries in cities. 320,000,000 rubles
- (d) Kindergartens in cities 221,000,000 rubles
- (e) Dairy kitchens 9,000,000 rubles
Total for construction 596,000,000 (after allowing for an 11 per cent decrease in construction costs).
On operating expenses:
- (a) For maintenance of the newly opened maternity beds and midwifery stations 5,000,000 rubles
- (b) For maintenance until the end of 1936 of newly built children’s nurseries 11,800,000 rubles
- (c) For the extension and improvement of the network of functioning kindergartens by utilizing and transforming into kindergartens new sites, porches and other light types of buildings in existing kindergartens, and small repairs to buildings taken over 30,000,000 rubles
Total 46,800,000 rubles
On training cadres:
- (a) For training midwives and nurses of the People’s Commissariat of Health: 15,000,000 rubles
- (b) For teachers for town kindergartens of the People’s Commissariat of Education: 17,000,000 rubles
- (c) For preparation of teachers for village kindergartens of the People’s Commissariat of Education: 18,000,000 rubles
Total: 50,000,000 rubles
24. To assign 70,500,000 rubles for increased maternity aid in accordance with Pars. 5, 6, and 8 of this decision.
25. The Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR to guarantee the necessary materials for the projected construction in order that the People’s Commissariats can begin construction by July 1 of this year.
26. To amend, for the purpose of establishing a uniform fixed system of financing kindergartens and children’s nurseries, the decision of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR of July 6, 1935 (Code of Laws, 1935, No. 35, art. 310) “On obligatory dues of undertakings and institutions for the maintenance of children’s nurseries and kindergartens”, to one-quarter of 1 per cent of the wage fund, to fix direct allocations of 300,000,000 rubles for 1936 for this purpose from the State budget, and to make the corresponding changes in the finance plans of the economic organs and institutions, and also in the income and expenditure sides of the State social insurance budget.
VIII. On More Severe Penalties for the Non-Payment of Alimony and Alterations in the Legislation on Divorce
27. To amend the existing laws on marriage, family, and guardianship, with the aim of combating light-minded attitudes towards the family and family obligations, and to introduce in divorce proceedings the personal attendance at the ZAGS (Civil Registrar’s Bureau) of both divorcees and the entry of the fact of divorce on the passports of the divorcees.
28. To increase the fees for registration of divorce as follows: 50 rubles for the first divorce, 150 rubles for the second, and 300 rubles each for the third and subsequent divorces.
29. To allot in court judgments on alimony one-fourth of the wages of the defendant for the maintenance of one child; one-third for the maintenance of two children; and 50 per cent of the wages of the defendant for the maintenance of three or more children.
30. Payments to collective farm women to be made in days-days on the same basis.
If the mother receiving alimony is a collective farm woman and works with the defendant on the same collective farm, the management of the collective farm in calculating the days-days shall directly enter the corresponding share of the days-days earned by the father (if there are children) to the account of the mother. If the mother works on another collective farm, this entry in favor of the mother of the corresponding share of the days-days earned by the father shall be deducted on behalf of the mother in the final accounting of the days-days, by the management of the collective farm where the father works.
31. To raise to two years’ imprisonment the penalty for nonpayment of sums awarded by a court for the maintenance of children, the search for persons refusing to pay alimony to be made at their expense.
Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR
Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR
Acting Secretary of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR
June 27, 1936
Source: J. Meisel and E. S. Kozera, eds., Materials for the Study of the Soviet System (Ann Arbor: G. Wahr Pub. Co., 1953), pp. 229-230.