Moscow: izd-vo «Okhrana materinstva i mladenchestva» NKZ, 1928. Item #1172
30 pp.,  pp. of ads: ill., diagrams. In original wrappers. Near fine.
Second edition. First edition published in 1925. Scarce. Our copy includes two identical front and back wrappers unlike the rest of the print-run.
In October 1920, the Bolsheviks adopted the ‘Decree on Women’s Healthcare’, which legalized abortion within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. After the RSFSR, the law was introduced in Ukraine (5 July 1921) and then the remainder of the USSR, thus turning the Soviet government into the first government in Europe to allow abortion.
The Communists saw legalization as a temporary necessity, as after the economic crisis and nearly a decade of unrest, revolution, and civil war, many women sought termination of pregnancy due to not being able to take care of their children. Yet, against the background of the increasing abortion rate (2.91 per live birth) and deteriorating demographic situation, the Soviets tried to oppose the dissemination of the abortion practice by any means. In order to fight a high number of lethal incidents, Soviet doctors propagated the use of contraceptives and published numerous works educating women on the subject.
This interesting edition, written by Soviet pediatrician Abram Gofmekler (1885-1944), provides a rare insight into the Soviet Union’s struggle against illegal abortion in the 1920s. The book was first published in 1925 and went through five editions, which came out in 1928 (second and third) and 1929 (fourth and fifth), respectively. The publication consists of five sections with each focusing on a specific topic: Natural Miscarriage, Abortion, Consequences of Abortion, Women’s Health Care and Contraceptives. The edition is mainly directed at undermining the midwifery practice and educating women on the proper ways of pregnancy termination. In the book, the author concentrates on the causes of natural miscarriage (poor working conditions, maternal health problems) and abortion (poverty, ‘obsolete’ desire to hide pregnancy) and offers a comparison of abortion procedures performed by a professional doctor and a midwife. Gofmekler also elaborates upon the measures carried out by the Soviet government to ensure maternal health care (committees authorizing abortion) and ends his narrative with the detailed review of the contraceptives that women could use in the 1920-s Soviet Union. The book is supplemented with 7 black and white illustrations showing consequences of abortion performed by a midwife (illustration #3 depicts men burying abortion patient), human embryo at different months of pregnancy, etc. The edition also includes tables with the information on about the age of women who applied for an abortion at the Krupskaya maternity hospital, percentage of women with fever after abortion, before and after the adoption decree of the People’s Commissariat of Health on abortion, etc.
Overall, an interesting vision of the 1920-s Soviet attitude towards abortion.
On June 27, 1936, the Soviet Union made abortion illegal again, stemming largely from concerns about population growth. After Stalin’s death in 1953, the Soviet government revoked the 1936 laws and issued a new law on abortion. The decree stated that ‘measures carried out by the Soviet state to encourage motherhood and protect infancy, as well as the uninterrupted growth of the consciousness of women’, allowed for the change in policy.
Worldcat shows 1 copy of the edition at University of Texas Libraries.