Lawmakers in Iran are considering whether they should ban vasectomies and tighten abortion laws in an effort to boost the country's birth rate.
The parliament in Tehran voted this week in favor of further discussions about making vasectomies illegal and punishing anyone involved in supplying contraceptive services, the Guardian reports. Iran implemented a birth control program 20 years ago that included the distribution of free condoms and subsidies for male sterilization. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last year criticized the country's family planning laws as too similar to those of Western countries, making it likely the new measures under consideration will pass parliament. Khamenei had encouraged the government to take action to address an aging population and to almost double the population from 77 million to 150 million.
Some activists say the country's declining birth rates on social, economic and cultural factors, the Guardian reports, and worry a change in policy will lead to greater maternal mortality rates. “We have enough young people who will procreate when they marry in the coming years,” said Kamiar Alaei, a doctor who has worked on HIV treatment programs in the country and was previous imprisoned there. “Slashing contraceptive services altogether will only increase unintentional abortion and maternal mortality.”