May 26, 2024


Despite its reputation in the West for intolerant Islamic fundamentalism, Iran has relatively liberal legislation on abortion and stem cell research. Writing in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, two Iranian bioethicists say that Islam teaches that ensoulment takes place at 120 days after conception. This makes it possible for Iranian scientists to do embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning, and for doctors to do abortions. In 2005, the Iranian parliament passed a “therapeutic abortion act”, which allows abortions after a diagnosis by three experts and a confirmation by the “legal medicine organisation”. Abortion is now legal during the first four months of pregnancy if the foetus is mentally or physically handicapped or if the mother’s life is in danger.

According to the authors, from Tehran University of Medical Sciences, the incidence of birth defects seem to be rising in Iran. There is a preference for consanguineous marriage, which results in a higher level of defects and the age of marriage for educated women is rising, as in the West. Pregnancies after the age of 35 are now more frequent, and there is more concern about chromosomal disorders.