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Abortion’s grisly centennial

The legal killing of unborn babies started 100 years ago

Women work in a cardboard department in Bratsk, Russia, in 1972. Associated Press (file)

Abortion’s grisly centennial

On Nov. 18, 1920, Soviet Russia became the first country to legalize abortion in an attempt to promote the government’s communist values. Since then, North America and most of Europe has followed suit as the worldview behind the practice took root in the West. Today, abortion on demand is legal in 67 countries, and 14 more allow it for broad social and economic reasons.

Jennifer Roback Morse, president of the Ruth Institute, said Russia’s decision to legalize abortion was partly “an attempt to downplay and undermine traditional morality.” The communist government wanted to build the country’s industrial base, and enabling mothers to abort their babies would allow more women to work. The government introduced it under the guise of women’s liberation. Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger said of the country in 1934, “The attitude of Soviet Russia toward its women … would delight the heart of the staunchest feminist.”

Soviet Russia reintroduced limits on abortion in 1936 in an attempt to boost its population. Famines and other economic disasters had crippled the country and increased the need for workers. But Russia returned to abortion on demand in 1955. According to medical personnel at the time, an estimated 6 to 7 million abortions occurred annually in the Soviet Union in the following years.

Countries such as Sweden and Japan legalized abortion after World War II. More European nations decriminalized it in the 1960s and 1970s, and the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision brought abortion on demand to the United States. The World Health Organization, Doctors without Borders, and the United Nations are now pushing a pro-abortion agenda on more traditional and conservative countries such as Mexico and Kenya. This year, the World Health Organization estimated an average of 73.3 million abortions occurred annually from 2015 to 2019.

“It’s important for us all to understand the origins of legalized abortion. It started with a regime dedicated to the abolition of human rights and the family, and the massive expansion of state power,” said Morse. “Abortion has nothing to do with freedom.”

Leah Savas

Leah reports on pro-life topics for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.



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The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears it down.  (Proverbs 14:1).  That's what I think of women who wage war on women and families by fighting for abortion on demand.  


Thank you for writing this. Knowing the history of evil helps fight against it. 


Thank you