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Iran death penalty threat for abortion unlawful: UN rights

New York

A new Iranian law that raises the prospect of the death penalty for abortion has been condemned by independent human rights experts, who have declared that is in “clear contravention of international law”.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the experts called on the Iranian authorities to repeal the ‘Youthful Population and Protection of the Family’ law, which was ratified by Iran’s Guardian Council on the first of November.

The law, said the experts, severely restricts access to abortion, contraception, voluntary sterilization services and related information, in direct violation of women’s human rights under international law, and contains a provision stating that if carried out on a large scale, abortion would fall under the crime of “corruption on earth” and carry the death penalty.

“The Iranian Government is taking further steps to use criminal law to restrict the rights of women, for the sake of increasing the number of births, which will effectively force many women and girls to continue unwanted pregnancies to term which would be inherently discriminatory”, the experts declared.

Abortion in Iran is effectively banned, apart from a few exceptions. The new law puts the final decisions on therapeutic abortion – in case of threat to the life of the pregnant woman or foetal anomalies – in the hands of a panel consisting of a judge, medical doctor and forensic doctor, rather than on the pregnant women, supported by the medical doctor.

For the UN experts, the law violates the rights to life and health, the right to non-discrimination and equality, and to freedom of expression by making it illegal to access a range of reproductive health services and share reproductive rights information.

The law also prohibits free distribution of contraceptive goods, and imposes a ban on voluntary sterilizations for men and women, aside from very exceptional cases. The move, said the experts, will disproportionately impact women in situations of marginalization, and victims of sexual violence.

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