If there is one essential truth to know about abortion, it’s this: abortion has always and will always occur regardless of a country’s attempts to criminalize the procedure. Policies that limit women’s reproductive freedom do virtually nothing to stop abortions from happening. They do, however, lead to worse health outcomes for women, who are often forced to obtain abortions illegally, some of which are performed under unsafe conditions.
Abortion in Iran is allowed only to save the life of a mother
Such is the case in Iran, a country that restricts abortion except to save the life of the mother, and even then only if at least three specialist doctors agree. Women who violate the law and obtain an abortion illegally risk spending 3-10 years behind bars.
Despite these restrictions, Iran was one of the leading countries to visit the HowToUse website through 2016 and the first half of 2017. In one month of 2017 alone, there were 16,108 visits to our website from Iran. To put this in perspective, India, a country with roughly 15 times the population, surpassed Iran by only 4,000 more site visits in the month.
This dramatic representation from Iran may be because HowToUse is one of the few online medical abortion resources to translate all of its information into Farsi. The traffic from Iran can also be interpreted to underline what we already know: criminalizing abortion only drives women to seek safe options elsewhere.
Studies suggest that 1 in 6 Iranian women of reproductive age will have an abortion in their lifetime. That is, of the 1.7 million pregnancies annually, 200,000 end in termination. However, only 6,000 are legally recorded, which means that most abortions performed in Iran happen underground.
Contrary to the stereotype of women who receive abortions as naïve, young, and desperate, one study found that abortion rates in Iran were highest among married women ages 30-34. The authors of the study note that abortion rates in Iran are somewhat lower compared to other Islamic countries, partly because of the wider availability of contraceptives. In the study, 85% of married women living in Tehran reported using contraceptives, and abortion rates were lower among women who specifically used “modern” methods like birth control pills.
Legal restrictions on reproductive freedom often mean decreased levels of accurate, reliable information about abortion. One study found that Iranian women tend to believe in abortion myths, like the idea that abortion is generally unsafe and leads to negative health consequences. In fact, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available, often safer than giving birth.
Another study found that women in Iran who obtained clandestine abortions were unaware of the warning signs to look for should complications occur. Furthermore, women who undergo abortions outside of clinical settings do not tend to follow-up with medical professionals which, depending on the procedure, may put them at higher risk for developing serious complications.
Iranian women need access to safe abortion options
HowToUse’s mission is to fill these information gaps and provide accurate, easy-to-understand, and reliable information about the abortion pill (medical abortion) to people all over the world, including Iran.
HowToUse enthusiastically welcomes visitors from Iran. Though Google and Facebook policies make it increasingly difficult to target our outreach to the country, we want women and men of Iran to know we are here as a resource for them, and we are eager to help all Iranians access the information they need about abortion and reproductive health.