Selma Hajri

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    First trimester abortion in the Arabic world

    Selma Hajri NGO, TUNIS, Tunisia - selmahajri@gmail.com

    According to a WHO report, 100,000 abortions are performed per year, and 160 to 260 women die each year from unsafe abortions in the North / Middle East region. Unintended pregnancies remain high and the number of abortion seems very important although there is no reliable data. In most Muslim countries abortion, even in cases permitted by law, seems unacceptable to many. Illegal abortion is punishable by imprisonment. In some countries abortion is tolerated in the private sector and abortions are available in private clinics in many Arab countries, in good conditions for the well-off. But given the difficulty of their situation, many women, the poorest, use unsafe and risky methods of abortion.

    Only Tunisia in 1973 (14 weeks LMP) and Turkey (1981 until 10 weeks LMP) have legalized abortion in the first trimester without restrictions. The majority of countries in the MENA region, that have the most restrictive laws in the world, have not evolved since independence. Policy changes and growing influence of conservatives are leading to maintenance of negative attitudes among providers and denial by most physicians and state institutions. Moreover, the latest changes with the “Arab spring“ have not improved the situation. Even where abortion is legal it is now increasingly inaccessible. Recently in Turkey the government reduced access to abortion in the public health service. After the revolution, in Tunisia where abortion is free and available in all clinics of ONFP (Family Planning) and public hospitals since 40 years, many family planning clinics and hospital units are stopping providing abortion. When they still provide abortions, new restrictions are appearing on access to abortion with a change in attitude of providers, concerns and "self-censorship", coupled with greater hostility of the medical and paramedical personnel against abortion.