The LOS ANGELES TIMES reports that nation of Iran is flip flopping once more on its population policy. This is not new news but is worth examining.

Iran launched a family planning program in 1967 as part of its development plan. The age of marriage was increased for girls from 9 to 15 (and 18 for boys) and family planning was promoted by the government. The birth rate remained stubbornly high at over 6.

This program ended with the onset of the Iranian Revolution, and births were heavily promoted as a defensive measure during the war with Iraq. The age of marriage for girls reverted to 9. Family planning services, however, continued to be offered.

This policy, in turn, ended after the Iraq ceasefire. The government promoted birth spacing, discouraged births by women under age 18 and promoted a family size of three, preferably two. Contraceptives were promoted and widely available. The birth rate plummeted. The annual population growth rate fell from 4% in 1985 to 1.1% in 2005

In 2014, the government reversed course once again, restricted access to contraceptives and promoted larger families. Abortion has been criminalized except in cases of rape, incest and threats to the mother’s life. Maternity leave has been instituted as well as zero interest loans to families having children. The government plans a website to track pregnant women. Sounds like several U.S. states. Sterilizations are generally prohibited.

The main obstacle to the government’s plan is the Iranian economy – people cannot afford large family and they will do whatever it takes not to have one. The risks to women’s health are real and dangerous. Illegally obtained abortion medications are rife, as well as the risks to women. As with Romania and other countries who have instituted draconian policies to require childbearing, these policies will end up with the death or involuntary sterilization of women of childbearing age, and the stunting of lives of girls and women.

The age of marriage is now 13 for girls and 15 for boys.

Current figures from the World Bank show that the birth rate has increased from 1.8 on 2010 to 2.1 in 2020 (The LA Times reported it to be still at 1.8 and the Statistical Center for Iran reported it at 1.7). Any increase in birth rates will be marginal at best. The harm to women will be greater.


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