Having an abortion in the Muslim world is not necessarily illegal.  In more secular countries, the interpretation of the Haditha prescribes that life commences at the 4th month of gestation, thereby opening the possibility for legalization of abortion prior to that month, with notable exceptions. 

In other places, such as Afghanistan, abortion is always illegal, unless the life of the mother is at risk, due to a stricter interpretation of Islam and a culture that gives women few rights or powers. 

But secret abortions in Afghanistan are becoming all too common, and the reason why may be surprising. 

The truth is that women in Afghanistan know that one way they are kept from living a fullfiling life is to have too numerous children.  With the care of the home and children, and the lack of education, women's lives are completely absorbed in tasks that they may or may not enjoy. 

To remedy that, women are secretly taking pills to abort the child, so that they are not forced to have child after child, and find a way to live a more meaningful life. 

In other cases, the illegal abortions are done to prevent social ostracism, especially in the case when the child is conceived out of wedlock. Some also do it in the case of rape, even though that is illegal too.

But the abortions are not done without risk.  Incarceration and fines are prescribed for illegal abortions.  Even children conceived in rape or incest are not considered for legal abortions.  To obtain a legal abortion not only does the doctor have to consent, but more importantly the religious local council must approve it.

Afghanistan however, has the highest birth rate in Asia, with an average of 5 children per woman.  And that is because the largely poor, agricultural population still lives with the perception that a large number of children, especially boys, ensures the family's ability to provide for itself.  Contraception too is a taboo, and cannot be easily obtained.  Only few women know and make use of it.

Unfortunately not all abortions are done through a pill to induce the fetus to die, and many of these back alley abortion do not end well.  Mortality rates from childbirth are just as dismal.  And that is because there are not enough women doctors - the only ones who are allowed to tend to a pregnant woman - and the medical structures and care are woefully inadequate.

Women are now trying to organize effort to bring more and better information to women in Afghanistan who do not have access to it.  They also want to force the government to stop playing into taboos and social prejudice and help women not only better prepare for pregnancy but also to prevent one. 


Source : Deutsche Welle/  5.6.14

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