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Source: RFE/RL

Aug 2, 2023

Iranian Midwife Arrested, Abortion Clinic Shut As Authorities Implement Plan To Boost Population

An Iranian midwife in the central city of Qom has been arrested for allegedly performing an illegal abortion and her clinic shut amid escalating efforts by Iran's judiciary to combat abortions.

Majid Mohabi, the deputy of treatment at the Qom University of Medical Sciences, said the midwife's property was seized and her future practice prohibited by the university.

Masoud Setayeshi, a spokesperson for the judiciary, recently unveiled a "comprehensive plan" on the issue, including penalties ranging from compensation payments and imprisonment to the revocation of medical licenses.

Abbas Masjedi, the head of the Legal Medical Organization, reported 1,437 abortion-related complaints last year, about one-third of which resulted in sentences being handed down.

In 2021, Iranian authorities approved new legislation that imposes further restrictions on abortions, bans the free distribution of contraceptives by the public health-care system, and provides added state benefits to families with more children.

The new law is an attempt by authorities to boost flagging population growth in Iran, a country of some 84 million people.

In recent years, a growing number of Iranian women have chosen to have fewer or no children -- mainly due to economic woes, changing gender norms, the growth of women's education, and family planning programs.That trend has seen Iran's population growth rate drop from over 4 percent in the 1980s to 1.29 percent in 2020, according to the World Bank, a development that has alarmed Iran’s clerical establishment.

However, there are serious doubts over the effectiveness of Iran's stringent anti-abortion laws.

Mohsen Zakarian, secretary of the government's Nafas plan -- a scheme aimed at combating abortion -- stated that as many as 1,000 illegal abortions take place every day, amounting to between 300,000 to 500,000 annually.

"Of the thousand abortions that occur daily in the country, only about 10 are legal," added Zakarian.Rights groups and health experts warn that the new law restricts women’s access to abortions, will lead to unwanted pregnancies and the birth of children with congenital defects, and increase the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS.

Iran was praised for its effective population policies following the devastating 1980-88 war with Iraq that discouraged pregnancy among underage girls, offered free condoms and subsidized vasectomies, and encouraged families to have two or fewer children.

The policy shift occurred after Iran's Supreme leader, Ali Khamenei labeled the previous population control policies a "mistake," leading to directives that limited access to contraception.

In a speech in 2020, Khamenei was quoted as saying that “any action and measure for the decrease of the population should [only] be taken after [the population] reaches 150 million.”

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda
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