A letter from an official judicial body in Iran has called on laboratories to help prevent ‘criminal abortions’ by reporting women’s positive pregnancy tests to the government.
The letter, issued by the Deputy Minister for Justice in Iran’s northern Mazandaran province, called on labs in the province to infringe patient privacy rights and patient-doctor confidentiality by informing local authorities of any new pregnancies in the region.
Addressed to the President of University of Medical Sciences in Iran from the province’s crime prevention deputy, the letter read: ‘One of the ways to prevent abortion is by connecting laboratories and the clinical centres to introduce mothers with positive pregnancy test results.’
The letter was leaked on Twitter by health and medical journalist Mahdiar Saeedian and has triggered outraged responses from women in Iran on social media.
‘I think we are outpacing ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ Protecting patients’ privacy is meaningless,’ one Twitter user wrote, in reference to the dystopian television drama in which women are treated as property of the state.
Another Twitter user commented: ‘I really do not understand why in a country with such a low level of public welfare, the government comes and launches a policy of increasing the population. What is this ridiculous game?’
The news comes amid the introduction of bizarre television censorship rules in Iran, which bans broadcasters from showing women eating pizza, sandwiches and ‘red-coloured drinks’
A letter from an official judicial body in Iran has called on laboratories to help prevent ‘criminal abortions’ by reporting women’s positive pregnancy tests to the government
The letter from a crime prevention deputy in Iran, leaked on Twitter and addressed to the President of University of Medical Sciences, read: ‘One of the ways to prevent abortion is by connecting laboratories and the clinical centres to introduce mothers with positive pregnancy test results’
Abortion in Iran is illegal in almost all cases with occasional exceptions granted for married women who can prove that giving birth would endanger their lives or the life of the baby, or in the case that the child is likely to be born with severe disabilities.
Women who are unmarried, or who have become pregnant through adulterous relationships, have no access to legal abortions.
Around 9,000 legal abortions are performed each year in Iran, but the Iranian health ministry estimates around 250,000 illegal abortions take place every year.
While pregnant women can turn to back-alley clinics or make appointments with doctors off the books to receive abortions, Iran also punishes any medical professional who is found to have given an illegal abortion with a prison sentence of up to one year and considerable fines according to the BBC.
This discourages many clinics from offering such a service, forcing women with unwanted pregnancies to turn to drastic measures to prevent birth.
Iranian TV censors have banned soap operas from showing women on screen eating pizza. The ban prevents broadcasters from showing women engaging in what appears to be a wholly arbitrary range of behaviours
The Human Rights Watch organisation has described women’s rights in Iran as ‘severely restricted’
An Iranian women’s rights activists told ABC News on condition of anonymity that the move is symptomatic of the Islamic Republic’s desire to maintain control over women’s bodies.
‘Just imagine a woman who has got pregnant in an extramarital affair. They would never dare refer to a lab for a pregnancy test if they know their information is being reported’, the activist said.
In response to the social media outcry, Iran’s official IRIB News published an interview with the crime prevention deputy of the provincial judiciary, saying the command in the letter was just to prevent ‘unprofessional abortions.’
However, there are suspicions that the move could be part of a plan to boost Iran’s withering population growth.
The country’s population growth rate between 2011 and 2016 was 1.24%, but now sits at 1.15% according to data collected by the World Population Review.
Similarly to doctors found to have administered illegal abortions, women who have illegally aborted a baby face considerable fines, but the length of their jail term is determined by the judge on a case-by-case basis, creating the potential for serious jail terms.
The Iranian activist told ABC News: ‘The solution to overcome a low population rate is not policing people’s relations and affairs, or their access to safe abortion or contraceptives.’
The government letter calling for labs to report positive pregnancy tests has quickly put paid to hopes that the nation was relaxing is stance on women’s rights after the government recently announced that women would be allowed to attend a football game for the first time in two years.
The letter has quickly put paid to hopes that the nation was relaxing is stance on women’s rights after the government recently announced that women would be allowed to attend a football game for the first time in two years
‘The presence of women has been authorised for the match between the national football teams of Iran and South Korea’ at the capital’s Azadi stadium on October 12, the state television-linked Young Journalists Club said.
Meanwhile, IranWire reported on Tuesday that Iranian government officials have issued new guidelines to broadcasters preventing them from showing women engaging in certain behaviours.
The website said Amir Hossein Shamshadi, the head of PR at the state broadcaster IRIB, ruled that women should not be shown on screen eating pizza or sandwiches, or drinking any red-coloured beverages.
To ensure that the strict new rules are followed, any scenes or photographs showing men and women in a domestic setting will have to be cleared by the IRIB before broadcast.
Some Iranian streaming sites will self censor to avoid facing sanctions from authorities in Tehran.
Under new rules, women in TV shows cannot be shown wearing leather gloves or having a red coloured drink
Federal judge blocks Texas’s controversial ban on most abortions
The battle over Texas’s toughest-in-the-nation abortion ban intensified on Wednesday after a federal judge temporarily blocked the state’s controversial restrictions and the Lone Star State immediately filed an appeal.
The action by US District Judge Robert Pitman in Austin prevents the state from enforcing the abortion law, which prohibits women from getting the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy – the time a fetal heartbeat is detected but before some women even know they’re pregnant.
Pitman did not delay the effective date of his ruling to give Texas time to seek an immediate stay from an appeals court, meaning that state abortion providers now have a short window of time to resume offering abortions to patients.
However, it is still unclear if they will be willing to do so. Even with the law on hold, abortion services in the state may not resume because doctors fear that they could be sued without a more permanent legal decision.
The news comes after thousands of women took part in a series of 660 marches to protest against Texas’s restrictive abortion law on Saturday