The Iranian Law on Abortion is Less Restrictive than the One in Alabama.

The Iranian Law on Abortion is Less Restrictive than the One in Alabama. May 19, 2019

In the past week, a number of red states passed laws that effectively ban abortion. Via 538:

Alabama this week enacted a law that bans all abortions except to save a woman’s life. There would be no exceptions for pregnancies caused by incest or rape, and conducting an abortion could result in a prison sentence of up to 99 years. Four other states — Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio — have adopted laws that ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

abortion
By Vgrigas licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0, via Wikipedia

I think there’s no doubt that these laws are backward and theocratic and authoritarian. But I think it’d be interesting to tell you how different they are from the abortion laws in Iran. Iran is, of course, officially a theocracy that’s run by sharia law, so you’d expect abortion to be illegal here. However, ironically, the abortion laws in Iran are much less restrictive than the ones in red states. Let’s take a look at the Iranian abortion law:

  • During the first 4 months of pregnancy, abortion is completely legal. Which is much later than the ones in red states, from conception or in six weeks (less than 2 months). This is due to the Islamic belief that the fetus doesn’t have a soul before the 5th month of pregnancy begins.
  • After the 4th month, you can still get an abortion if you have three doctors’ notes that it’s necessary. “Necessary” here includes both physical reasons and psychological reasons, so, for example, if you’re depressed you can request abortion. Also if you can prove that the fetus is not healthy, you’ll be able to get one as well (although this has uncomfortable eugenicist implications, so I don’t ethically endorse this).
  • If you illegally abort, the doctor — not the person with uterus — is punished by paying a fine which is determined by the Islamic law (a percentage of the blood money), but there’s no prison involved.

(These laws are mentioned here, in Persian).

This is, of course, not ideal. Ideally, you’d want abortion to be accessible on demand and without requiring any legal shenanigans and any permits, but I think it’s quite clear that given the Iranian context, the abortion law is as progressive as it can possibly be. I’m pointing this out for two reasons:

  1. It must put things in perspective to see how barbaric these laws are, when the law of a theocracy is more progressive.
  2. Don’t assume we’re always backwards — the reality is always more complicated than surface notions.
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