A new directive issued by the Iranian Health Ministry has criminalized medical professionals acting as "accessories" to abortion. Those found to be "aiding and abetting" illegal abortions will face a heavy fine and disbarment.
Saber Jabberi, head of Youth Population Department at the Ministry of Health, said of the policy as it came into effect on June 18: "If a doctor is involved in an intentional abortion his permit will be revoked, even if it is his first time."
The change comes in the wake of MPs passing the draconian "Law on Family Protection and Youth", an unprecedented set of restrictions on family planning aimed at forcing more Iranian women to give birth.
In line with its contents, in February the Food and Drug Administration banned the distribution of free contraception at medical centers.
The Health Ministry has also limited screening for fetal abnormalities. As part of this, medical insurance companies have been instructed to only cover screening if the woman is aged over 35, or if she has previously given birth to children with genetic disorders or Down's syndrome.
Medical experts and geneticists have lined up to criticize this measure, saying it will inevitably lead to a rise in the number of children born with genetic defects and debilitating illnesses.
The law has also provoked outrage among ordinary citizens. A woman named Fatemeh, writing on Twitter, noted: "Iran is a country where you have no right to abort your embryo, because it is 'alive', but where you have the right to kill, behead and set on fire your daughter because she has a boyfriend."
There is also a broad concensus that birth control will only be pushed further underground as a result of the new law. Abortion in Iran is only illegal for strictly medical purposes, and so at least 600,000 women undergo "illegal" terminations every year.