Morocco moves to legalize abortions in cases of rape and incest

Abortion Opinions in Morocco

Round Earth Media's unique journalism model includes partnering young journalists from the U.S. and abroad and publishing in major media outlets in both countries. For this reason, we often archive multiple versions of each story in different formats and languages.

Due to publishing restrictions in Morocco, the in-country version of this story was published in a student newspaper and is not available online.

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Originally Published in USA Today on August 12, 2015.See Original Version.

RABAT, Morocco— It’s been eight years since Hinde Bariaz went to a medical clinic in this capital city to obtain an illegal abortion. All these years later, she remembers the experience vividly.

The clinic was dirty, Bariaz said, with air heavy from cigarette smoke. “The doctor was smoking. I had to wonder, ‘Am I in a market?’ It was not safe at all,” Bariaz, 35, said. “You just go inside, you finish the operation and you leave as quickly as possible.”

An estimated 800 women get abortions every day in this North African kingdom, and many face the same conditions as Bariaz because abortions are illegal unless the life or health of the mother is at risk. But that may soon change.

In March, King Mohammed VI ordered that laws restricting abortion be eased in cases of rape and incest. In Morocco, when the king wants something it usually happens: The parliament is likely to approve the change within weeks.

The king’s decree came after a controversy involving a Moroccan physician who spoke out on the issue. The Moroccan Ministry of Health fired Chafik Chraibi, chief of obstetrics at a hospital in Rabat, after he criticized the country’s abortion laws in a French TV report in December, but he got his job back in March following an outcry on social media.

“Women who do not get abortions end up having babies” and many “abandon their babies and disappear,” Chraibi said.

The push to legalize some abortions is encountering opposition from the Justice and Development Party, the conservative Islamist group that leads the government. But Mehdi Bensaid, a young member of parliament who supports liberalizing the country’s abortion laws, said “this is a good time” to pass the law because many non-profit groups and other political parties are backing the change.

Morocco’s current anti-abortion law is common in the Muslim world. A 2014 U.S. government study found that in 47 nations with a majority of Muslims, 18 do not allow abortions under any circumstances besides saving the life of the pregnant woman, while 10 allow abortion with few if any restrictions.

In Tunisia, another majority-Muslim country also in North Africa, abortion has been legal within the first three months of pregnancy since 1973.

Moroccan protesters hold slogans to protest against the abortion at the entrance of the Mediterranean Marina Smir harbour, near Tetouan, northern Morocco, on October 4, 2012, as Navy blocks the access to the harbour in which a controversial Dutch “abortion ship” was due to dock in the first such trip to a Muslim country. Women on Waves, the Dutch group organising the trip, is seeking to inform women about how to induce “safe legal medical abortions,” offer the necessary medication and start a discussion on legalising the practice in Morocco.