Religious scholars in Egypt rejected a draft law that, if adopted, would authorize abortion and the sterilization of women for financial and health reasons, labeling it anti-Islamic.
The Health Committee at the People’s Assembly, Egypt’s lower house of Parliament, approved Saturday the medical responsibility law, which includes an article that authorizes abortion and sterilization if a woman’s health or condition does not make her fit for having kids.
Scholars from al-Azhar, the world’s leading institution of Sunni Islam, labeled the law un-Islamic and argued that such procedures could only be carried out in cases of emergency.
Unless the woman’s life is in real danger, abortion and sterilization should never be done and are considered against the teachings of Islam, said Dr. Souad Saleh, professor of Islamic Jurisprudence at al-Azhar University.
“This law is un-Islamic because it is considered an intervention in God’s will,” she told Al Arabiya. “This should not be done unless it is absolutely urgent.”
Saleh vehemently rejected abortion and sterilization for financial reasons and laid the blame on the government.
“Instead of issuing such a law, the government should eliminate poverty and provide for the children of the poor.”
Hamed Abu Taleb, Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Law at al-Azhar University, agreed with Saleh and argued that anyone involved in this law would be considered a sinner.
“Abortion and sterilization of women because of poverty is definitely against Islam,” he told Al Arabiya. “Those who drafted the law as well as those who will apply it are sinners.”
Abu Taleb added that the new law is not only un-Islamic, but also unconstitutional due to the close connection between the constitution and Islamic law.
“According to the constitution, Islamic law is the main source of legislation and since the new law violates Islamic law, it violates the constitution.”
Sheikh Ali Abul Hassan, former head of al-Azhar’s fatwa committee, argued that a woman is allowed to do an abortion only when her life is threatened. Otherwise is totally illegitimate.
“Several religious scholars have even allowed women to postpone pregnancy if they are worried about their beauty and figure, but getting an abortion because of poverty is out of question,” he told Al Arabiya.
Hamdi al-Sayed, head of the Health Committee and chairman of the Doctors Syndicate, defended the law as necessary in the light of the current financial situation.
“Many women cannot afford to raise their children,” he said during the discussion of the law at the People’s Assembly. “This is based on official reports released by the Ministry of Social Affairs.”
Hamdi explained that the new law allows abortion and sterilization under specific circumstances. According to the law, any of the two procedures require the approval of husband and wife as well as a medical committee made up of three doctors.
In case of abortion for health reasons, a report has to be written to the effect that the woman cannot go through pregnancy due to her health condition or that she is the carrier of a disease that might cause fetus deformation.
In case of poverty, the Ministry of Social Affairs will issue a report on the financial situation of the woman or the family, according to which it will be decided whether the abortion or sterilization should take place. The number of kids the woman already has will also play an important role in the decision.
“We have to do our best to bear into consideration the harsh conditions those families go through,” Hamdi concluded.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)