Abortion and Islam: Policies and Practice in the Middle East and North Africa

Posted: 12 Jul 2007  

Leila Hessini

Independent

Abstract

This paper provides an overview of legal, religious, medical and social factors that serve to support or hinder women's access to safe abortion services in the 21 predominantly Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where one in ten pregnancies ends in abortion. Reform efforts, including progressive interpretations of Islam, have resulted in laws allowing for early abortion on request in two countries; six others permit abortion on health grounds and three more also allow abortion in cases of rape or fetal impairment. However, medical and social factors limit access to safe abortion services in all but Turkey and Tunisia. To address this situation, efforts are increasing in a few countries to introduce post-abortion care, document the magnitude of unsafe abortion and understand women's experience of unplanned pregnancy. Religious fatāwa have been issued allowing abortions in certain circumstances. An understanding of variations in Muslim beliefs and practices, and the interplay between politics, religion, history and reproductive rights is key to understanding abortion in different Muslim societies. More needs to be done to build on efforts to increase women's rights, engage community leaders, support progressive religious leaders and government officials and promote advocacy among health professionals.

Keywords: abortion law and policy, unsafe abortion, Islam, women's rights, Middle East and North Africa region

Suggested Citation

Hessini, Leila, Abortion and Islam: Policies and Practice in the Middle East and North Africa. Reproductive Health Matters, Vol. 15, No. 29, pp. 75-84, May 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=998448

Leila Hessini (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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