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Abortion In The Arab World Is Sort Of Like Abortion In America

Illustration for article titled Abortion In The Arab World Is Sort Of Like Abortion In America

The UN estimates that 1 in 10 pregnancies in the Arab world ends in abortion, despite the fact that in most countries it is illegal except for cases in which harm to the mother is imminent. Between Western Asia and North Africa, one study estimates that up to 1.2 million unsafe abortions are performed every year, given the lack of access to legal abortion services, lack of knowledge of birth control and, some people claim, shifting social mores about pre-marital sex and abortion. As in America before Roe v. Wade, women in the Arab world are caught between (in some cases) relaxed expectations of virginity, economic realities, the religious implications of abortion, a lack of information about and access to birth control and a dearth of safe abortion services. (Wait, did I say pre-Roe America? This sounds suspiciously like 2008!)


According to a recent poll by, "53% of Egyptians, 57% of Palestinians and 55% of Iranians oppose their governments' policies of making abortion a crime" (not that those countries' leaders are known for the attention they pay to public opinion polls!). This comes despite the overwhelming adherence of those countries' residents to the Muslim faith, which holds that most abortions are not permitted, though holds out an exemption for the life of the mother is the fetus is less than 120 old. There has been more modern discussion as to whether mothers should be allowed to abort for serious genetic defects or disease (currently allowed in Iran, but it remains the subject of debate amongst scholars). While most scholars hold that abortion in the case of rape should not be permitted since the fetus itself is not at fault, reports indicate that both Bosnian and Algerian women were allowed by a fatwa to abort when raped by soldiers during those countries' wars. However, women are never supposed to abort for financial or other reasons having to do with hardship..

That said, the LA Times article (published June 29) finds many women who, with their husbands, make the choice to have an abortion for financial or other reasons, like a surfeit of children in the family already. It would seem like these countries would be a perfect test case for the effectiveness of birth control education in reducing the prevalence of abortion, but that would probably mean the Bush Administration would have to stop denying aid to programs that even mention the word abortion to women, so that's probably not going to happen. It's all about having your principles.


Number Of Abortions Rising In The Middle East, Experts Say [LA Times]

Reproduction: Abortion [Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures]

Abortions More Common in Arab Countries [UPI]

Islamic Teachings on Abortion [BBC]

Picture courtesy of Obey Clothing

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@Magnakai Haaskivi: You bring up a very interesting point— a pregnancy as a result of rape absolutely has the capability of changing a woman's ethnic status since the children in question take on the ethnicity of the father. In Sudan/Darfur, a Muslim society, a Darfuri woman raped by a Janjaweed soldier is mother to a Janjaweed child. If she is married, usually the husband leaves her and she is shamed. If she is unmarried, she enver will be, even if there is no child. if there is a child, that child is considered a "Janjaweed baby".