Monday, June 30, 2008

Abortion in the Middle East

Over the weekend, the the Los Angeles Times reported that there is an “apparent increase” in the number of abortions in the Middle East. (It appears, though, that the evidence is largely anecdotal; since abortions are still illegal in much of the region, it’s difficult to gather and verify data about their prevalence.) The trend appears to reflect an ongoing social shift:

“There’s definitely an increase compared to 10 to 15 years ago,” said Mohammed Graigaa, executive director of the Moroccan Assn. for Family Planning. “Abortion is much less of a taboo. It’s much more visible. Doctors talk about it. Women talk about it. The moral values of people have changed.”

Middle Easterners, like most other people, are tending to delay marriage, decrease the number of children per household, and place less of a premium on virginity before marriage. More significant than the actual number of abortions in the region is the increase in openness about sexuality.

But such openness still lags in access to birth control, family planning, and safe abortions. The Times article reveals some disturbing anecdotes about women suffering from botched illegal abortions.

Equally disturbing is the taboo in providing sex ed and contraception. The article notes that “Arab youths receive little in the way of birth control or sex education, say family planning experts in the Middle East, many of whom work discreetly to provide reproductive health services in conservative Muslim societies that hold women’s maternal roles as sacrosanct.”

It’s hard to say where the future of women’s right lies for the Middle East. Right now it seems that some class elements are at play. Wealthy women in the Middle East can get access to birth control and safe abortions, but poorer women must risk back-ally abortions because they have no other options.

It’s nearly impossible to stop sex. The proper course, then, is to make sure that it can be as safe as possible.

Cross posted from Pushback (we're working on a full RSS feed, I swear).

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