So-called “pregnancy patrols” have reportedly been deployed in major hospitals to intervene where planned medical treatment could affect a woman’s fertility.
According to the newspaper Ham Mihan, female operatives employed by the Ministry of Health have been granted a “legal permit” to tour hospital wards and approach women due to have a hysterectomy or ovary removal surgery.
The aim, the newspaper said, was to “warn off” patients who are still young enough to bear children, regardless of the reason for the procedure.
One eyewitness who spoke to Ham Mihan had accompanied her 55-year-old mother to hospital. The older woman had a tumor in her uterus and was suffering from extreme pain. She and her husband, her daughter said, had signed “a thousand forms” ahead of the surgery, only to be collared in the waiting room by a patrol member who demanded to know: “You don’t want any more children?”
The move appears to have come as part of a wider consolidation of the new "Law on Family Protection and Youth", a set of draconian measures aiming to forcibly boost population growth in Iran.
This controversial law creates unprecedented set of restrictions on family planning aimed at compelling more 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.
Saber Jabberi, head of Health Ministry’s Youth Population Department, recently announced that any time a pregnant woman sees a doctor for a test or sonogram, the results must be registered in a new, purpose-built information system.
On July 9, Alireza Rahimnia, Director General of Health Ministry’s Inspection Department, also asked people to report medical practitioners or pregnant women to the ministry if they learned of any “violations”. Last month the Ministry had announced that “aiding and abetting” elective abortions was now a crime, and any doctors responsible would be fined and disbarred for life.