Abortion is a divisive and turbulent topic in Morocco. But with a huge number of operations performed illegally every day, efforts are now being made to reform the existing law.
Single mother, Hoda, as she’s asked to be called, remembers the day she nearly had an abortion.
She was four months pregnant by a man who didn’t want to marry her- she says she couldn’t face having a child in a society that largely looks down on unwed mothers.
“Society is hard on us, it shows no mercy. There’s a big difference between here and Europe. In Europe people live well, but it’s not like that here. Women here hide their babies from their families, so the families won’t find out they ever had a child. Half of my family doesn’t know I had a child, I have had to hide it from them.”
But as she was approaching the illegal clinic- police escorted a handcuffed doctor outside.
A woman had just died from his botched abortion.
“The police were all around the clinic and the doctor was under arrest by the clinic door. I asked what had happened and went in and I saw the girl dead. There was blood everywhere, the clinic was full of blood. She had had a massive hemorrhage,” said Hoda.
Abortion is illegal in Morocco, except if the mother’s health is threatened. But an estimated 600 to 800 are performed every day.
Now, efforts are being made to reform the law. Morocco’s Health Minister El Houssaine Louardi wants to stem the tide of illegal abortions by making safe operations more accessible.
“The Moroccan penal code on abortion is a very restrictive law. It’s not at all equitable for women, it discriminates a lot against women, it is out of date and it doesn’t take into account the reality of the lives that women and men lead today in Morocco. So it is urgent we revise this law.”
Dr. Chafik Chraibi a gynaecologist by profession supports the move- he’s seen countless women and girls carry out abortions themselves, only to be admitted with severe injuries or at the point of near death.
Dr. Chraibi says, “the majority of Muslim countries have legalised abortion in the case of rape, incest or foetal malformation. But this is insufficient because it only represents five to ten percent of the actual situation, but if we open up the field with a goal of protecting health we could really address the issue now and into the future.”
But Morocco’s Health Minister El Houssaine Louardi,knows reform on its own is not enough.
“The law must take into account our unique social context, our unique culture and our distinctive religious character. But changing the law on its own will not solve the problem.”
Hoda escaped what could have been a deadly procedure.
Now though, she faces the struggle of raising her child alone