Iran bans vasectomies in effort to boost birth rate
Iran's parliament has voted to ban permanent forms of contraception, the state news agency IRNA reported, endorsing the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's call for measures to increase the population.
The bill, banning vasectomies and similar procedures in women, is parliament's response to a decree Khamenei issued in May calling for more babies to "strengthen national identity" and counter "undesirable aspects of Western lifestyles".
Doctors who violated the ban would be punishable by law, the ISNA news agency reported.
The bill, approved by 143 out of 231 members present in parliament, according to IRNA, also bans the advertising of birth control in a country where condoms had been widely available and family planning considered entirely normal.
The law now goes to the Guardian Council - a panel of theologians and jurists appointed by the Supreme Leader who examine whether legislation complies with Islam.
It aims to reverse Iran's declining population, but reformists see the law as part of a drive by conservatives to keep Iran's highly educated female population in traditional roles as wives and mothers.
It also worries health advocates who fear an increase in illegal abortions.
State media reported that the number of illegal terminations between March 2012 and March 2013 was 12,000, more than half the total number of abortions that year. Abortion is legal in Iran if the mother is in danger or if the fetus has been diagnosed with certain defects.
Iran's birth rate stood at 1.6 children per woman, lawmaker Ali Motahari said, according to IRNA. At that rate, the population of more than 75 million would fall to 31 million by 2094.