King orders Morocco’s abortion laws to be loosened
RABAT // Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has ordered that laws restricting abortion be loosened, allowing it in the case of rape, incest, danger to the mother’s health or foetal malformation.
Debate erupted in Morocco earlier this year over reforming the penal code, which banned abortion except in cases of a threat to the mother’s life. The king had his justice minister, religious affairs minister and the head of the state human rights organisation study the issue.
“Their consultations showed that a vast majority of society is for the criminalisation of abortion with the exception of a few cases that would have negative medical, psychological and social repercussions on the woman, foetus, family and society,” said a royal statement carried late on Friday by the state news agency.
With the exception of Tunisia, where abortion is legal, the practice is highly restricted across the Middle East, with occasional exceptions made for rape, incest or foetal malformations.
In Morocco, abortion is currently punishable by between one and five years in prison.
Despite this, however, the practice is widespread. Non-governmental organisations estimate that between 600 and 800 illegal abortions are performed every day in Morocco, sometimes in appalling conditions.
Extramarital relations are illegal in Morocco and some women turn to abortion to avoid the shame incurred by bearing a chid out of wedlock.
Calls for reform were sparked in December when Dr Chafik Chraibi, head of obstetrics at Rabat’s maternity hospital, was fired after he condemned the laws that forced abortion underground.
His sacking led to a debate among intellectuals and political party leaders, culminating in Dr Chraibi’s reinstatement and the king launching a committee in March to reform the law.
Some reform advocates had called for a much wider access to abortion to stem the recourse to illegal procedures.
* Associated Press and additional reporting by Agence France-Presse
Updated: May 16, 2015 04:00 AM