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Warnings Over Khamenei's Order: Waves of Unhealthy Abortions Coming

By Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah, Rooz Online

The head of Iran’s population oversight office at the ministry of health has issued a warning over the growing number of unhealthy abortions in the country. Mohammad Mirzai said there is a wrong perception that by removing the means that are available for abortions, the population of the country will automatically increase. Last month, following the orders of Iran’s supreme leader ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s ministry of health announced that it was completely suspending all programs and procedures related to family planning and control in Iran. Last month, ayatollah Khamenei called for the country’s population to growth to 150 to 200 million people. According to Iran’s latest census, the population of the country today stands at around 75 million.

Speaking to Khabar Online, Mirzai said, “If women are not freely provided the personal means to control births, unwanted births will take place while unhealthy abortions will prevail in deprived regions of the country.” He continued his warning by adding that under the present conditions, the health of mothers and children who are involved in the issue will be jeapardized, which he said would result in lower births.

In the interveiw, Mirzai advised officials to “go slowly and use incentives” to raise the population of the country rather than deny low-income families the means to plan and manage their family size which are in fact the “means of a mother’s health, security and safety.”

He stressed that unless the current approach was changed, low-income families would be pushed towards “unwanted pregnancies and unnatural actions.” Abortion is illegal in the Islamic republic except for unusual situations. According to a law passed by the Majlis in 2005, an abortion can take place only on the absolute determination of three specialist physicians, the cofirmation of the surgeon general and the consent of the to-be-parents prior to the fourth month of pregnancy.

Prior to Mirzai’s warning, the minsiter of health had stated that all family planning budgets had been scrapped adding that “no such program existed any longer at the ministry of health.” Marzie Vahid Dastjerdi explained that while the ministry’s policies were in line with the “general policies of the regime and the guidelines of the supreme leader,” “the policy of family planing in the way it was defined in the past does not exist any longer.”

Her remarks made reference the supreme leader’s comments to state officials when he he criticised the family planning polices of the country by saying that while such policies were in the interest of the country in 90s, their continuation in later years was a mistake. He had said, “expert and scientific research” had shown that if the familu planning policies continued, Iran would gradually “face an aging population and ultimately negative population growth.” He then had called on officials re-evaluate the family planning policy fo the country and also asked “media owners and outlets, including clerics to take measures to mould culture” in this regard. Khamenei also made a reference to ayatollah Khomeini’s remarks over two decades earlier about a population of 150 to 200 million people for the country, which he approved and which should the aim of policy makers.

Following these remarks, the director general of family planning office at the ministry of health announced that the government was cancelling all funding for family planning programs.

Iran's population is just over 75 million

In the past, Hashemi Rafsanjani’s two administrations and Mohammad Khatami’s two administrations had both pursued family planning with the moto that two children were sufficient and that less children meant a better life. But even prior to these remarks last month, Khamenei had supported Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies to increase the country’s population. On one occasion in early September of 2011 (on 16 Mordad), he publicly said this in a meeting with some authorities of the Islamic republic. At that particular meeting he said, “I believe that with the resources that we have, we can have a population of 150 million people.” He further said that any family plannning aimed at stopping population growth should be exercised after there were 150 million people in the country. Ahmadinejad had announced his desire to increase the population of Iran soon after coming to office in 2005.

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