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MTP on Decline

MTP on DeclineMTP on Decline

Some 586 cases in the first four months of the current year (started March 21) registered with Tehran Central Forensic Medicine seeking permission for therapeutic abortion.  Statistics indicate 6.5 percent decline in the rate.

Dr. Ameneh Beik Mohammadi, head of forensic medicine told IRNA that legal permission for medical termination of pregnancy (MTP) is granted only on two grounds: fetal abnormality and existence of threat to mother’s life.

Valid genetic testing, ultrasound, written consent of mother, gestational period of less than 19 weeks of the fetus, besides approval by three medical specialists is mandatory for therapeutic abortion, she said.

 One reason for decline can be attributed to genetic counseling. Counseling and genetic tests are the most effective way of preventing congenital defects in new born babies, says Prof. Dariush Farhoud, member, Academy of Medical Sciences.

Also with the commencement of health reforms, the health ministry has provided prenatal supplements for pregnant women. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs)—serious birth defects of the spinal cord and the brain in unborn babies.

 Punitive Laws

 The law clearly states that ‘’any medical professional who aids and abets abortion will serve 2 to 5 years in prison.’’ But according to Mohammad Ali Esfanani, who heads the Majlis Law Committee, offenders can even be put to death since they are taking the life of a human being. Top Shiite clerics have given their opinions.

Religious scholars have banned the practice, but there are exceptions. If it is proved that life of the mother is in danger, termination of pregnancy is allowed before the fetus is four months old. But beyond four months, when the fetus is believed to develop a ‘soul’, termination is not considered justifiable since the life of fetus and mother are equally valuable. It is now for the mother to prove that her decision is right in order to get the court’s consent.

 Highly Advanced

Hossein Ali Shahriari, Head of Majlis Health Committee says Iran has ‘’ highly advanced laws on abortion.’’ He notes that ‘’nowhere in the world a woman has the choice in the first four months to terminate her pregnancy should her life be at risk or if it is verified that the fetus will have serious birth defects.’’ Nevertheless, he expressed concern at the alarming rate of illegal terminations and urged the people to inform the authorities about any illegal centers since they pose a risk to women’s health.

 Amendment

Ahmad Aryaeenejad, another member of Majlis Health Committee believes there are two points to consider: Sharia law and the wellbeing of the mother. He notes that experts in the fields as well as social workers should come together to find solutions to the alarming trend. He suggests new decrees and revising the existing laws. He said the amendments could be made applicable in the case of unwanted pregnancies or when the couple is separating and, therefore, not ready to raise a child. ‘’Sharia law can be our guide since it is comprehensive’’, he added.

 Cause for Concern

Meanwhile, the increasing number of illegal abortions in the country has caused concern among officials and experts alike. With new drugs available and the mushroom growth of shady clinics, it is estimated that many illegal terminations are taking place.

Of equal concern is the fact that illegal abortions are higher than therapeutic abortions in safe clinics, said a report in Iran newspaper.

 Countries like Switzerland, Britain, Denmark, Sweden and Finland have lax laws on abortion, while Belgium, France and Spain have strict laws against abortion on religious grounds. Other countries like Russia and Romania have taken a middle approach by allowing a woman to make her bid through legal procedures.

Financialtribune.com