A new abortion policy ruling, one of two major women's rights advances recently reported from Iran, provides an interesting contrast to other less flexible doctrines, including those common amongst Christian fundamentalists. Naj at Iran Facts reported this news recently, and while wet T-shirt contests are probably still way off, it does indicate a major religion's rather profound concessions towards greater equality:
Another ayatollah also ruled on a liberalization of inheritance laws, which previously gave widows a smaller share of a deceased husband's inheritance than his surviving relatives, explained more fully via the Parsine News link above. Property rights are fundamental to equality before the law, so this also must be interpreted as a significant development in favor of muslim women.
According to Parsine News Agency, Grand Ayatollah Mazaheri, one of the more renowned religious scholars based in Isfahan, has issued a Fatwa allowing unwed mothers to obtain abortions.
According to the report published on the site of Parsine a religious question was posed for the Grand Ayatollah as follows: "given the fact that pregnancy out of wedlock is extremely difficult for an unwed mother and will in all likelihood bring shame to her and her family, would she under these circumstances be allowed to obtain an abortion?" To this question, the Grand Ayatollah replied as follows: "given these circumstances, [an abortion] is permissible."
The interesting point regarding the response provided by this religious scholar is the fact that he does not address the age of the fetus. Other Shiite religious scholars have emphasized the age of the fetus and have in the past viewed the abortion of a fetus over 4 months as a murderous act for which full blood money (monetary compensation paid for bodily injury or death) must be provided to kin and in some instances have called for abortion to dealt with through Qesas (retribution).
The University of Al-Azhar which is believed to be the highest reference for Sunni Muslims on religious matters has recently announced that abortion for women who have become pregnant as a result of rape is permissible. The Islamic Research Committee of Al-Azhar University in Egypt published a statement in this regard, which reads: "women who have suffered rape, can obtain a doctors permission as soon as they become aware of their pregnancy, after which they will be allowed to quickly obtain an abortion." This statement has gone further to explain that such an abortion will allow for the stability of society. This statement was issued by Al-Azhar despite the fact that Egyptian law bans abortion, except under special circumstances when the health of the mother is in danger or the fetus has serious health problems.
(Picture is of award-winning Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani.)