Earlier this month Iran’s parliament took a step closer to criminalising any form of permanent contraception / contraceptives including vasectomy, tubal ligation and abortion. With lengthy prison terms for convicted offenders, the drastic move is designed to combat the country’s sharply decreasing population.

The steep decline in Iran’s population is unusual given that, unlike in most western countries experiencing similar downturns, the country’s population is mostly very young.  Almost 70% of Iran’s 77 million people are under 35. Until relatively recently the birth rate was high.

Ironically, Iran’s current move to ban contraception overturns a previous campaign; “Fewer kids, better lives” first issued in the 1960’s, which called for couples to have less children. But the population didn’t really explode until the early 80’s in the years following the Islamic Revolution.

Initially this issue was tackled with incentives including free hospital stays for births, longer maternity leave and cancellation of birth control subsidies. However this quickly made way for more concerning measures.

Abortion was already technically illegal in most circumstances but it remained widely practiced.  This ban will now be more strictly enforced, as will the ban on permanent contraception.  In addition the legislation does not identify who will face criminal proceedings, the patient, the healthcare provider, or both.  Needless to say it is well documented that wherever contraception and abortion are restricted, women may resort to drastic measures, putting their own safety and lives at risk.