The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Iran’s baby shortage leads to a plan to ban permanent contraception

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the 25th death anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, in Tehran June 4, 2014.
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TEHRAN -- Iran’s parliament on Tuesday took a step closer to criminalizing permanent forms of contraception, in a move intended to turn around a decreasing population rate.

The framework of legislation that would ban abortions, vasectomies, tubectomies, and any form of sterilization passed. Convicted offenders would face lengthy prison terms. Also included in the bill was a prohibition on any advertisement that promotes decreases in the birth rate.

Lawmakers have not yet clarified who will be punished -- health care providers or patients who choose to undertake these procedures.

The move is a response to calls from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to increase the country’s population, which rapidly grew in the years following the 1979 revolution.

In the late 1980s, contraception and other forms of birth control became widely available and the birth rate slowed dramatically. But some officials now believe such measures were a mistake.

“The Plan for Increasing the Rate of Childbirth and Decreasing the Decline in Population” was introduced by Ali Motahhari, an influential conservative whose late father is considered one of the figures central in forming the Islamic republic’s core ideology.

Lawmakers voted 106 to 72 in favor the bill, with 28 abstaining.

Critics warned that outlawing such procedures would lead to new problems and do little to promote population growth.

“Passing this bill will definitely lead to illegal procedures in dark corridors and unregulated offices. We have take cultural action and I’m pleading with the speaker of parliament that we cannot force people to have children with prison terms and lashes,” lawmaker Mohammad Davatgari said.