Islamic Edict on Rape and Abortion Draws Criticism, Egypt Considers Bill

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 1, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Islamic Edict on Rape and Abortion Draws Criticism, Egypt Considers Bill Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 1,

Cairo, Egypt ( — An Islamic religious group has sparked considerable controversy in the Middle East with a recent edict saying women who are victims of rape should be able to have abortions. Muslims generally oppose abortion and many Islamic nations prohibit abortions in all or most circumstances.

However, Al-Azhar a leading institute for Sunni Muslims, recently said that women who are subject to sexual abuse should be able to have abortions to maintain their "social standing."

"A raped woman must terminate the pregnancy immediately upon learning of the pregnancy if a trusted doctor gives her clearance for the abortion,” the Islamic Research Council, part of the institute, said.

The edict has sparked considerable debate in Egypt where rape is a rising concern amid economic and other social concerns there.

Egypt currently bans abortions except in very rare cases when the mother’s life is in danger or the unborn child has severe abnormalities. Yet, the edict has prompted a member of the parliament there to introduce a bill legalizing abortions in cases of rape.

Gulf News reports that MP Khalil Qouta wants to allow abortions for the 20,000 women annually who are victims of sexual assault.

Egypt’s top Muslim cleric Mohammad Sayed Tantawi told the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram that, “Any girl or woman, who is subjected to rape, has the right in Islam to have abortion at anytime, and she would not commit a sin for doing this."

Tantawi, who is the Grand Shaikh of Al Azhar and issued the edict, has given his blessing to the bill.

However, Fawzia Abdul Sattar, a professor of criminal law, tells Gulf News she opposes the measure, saying “Endorsing the right to abortion in the cases of rape has several risks."

"In the first place, this bill deals with the aftermath of the crime, but not the crime itself," she said. “Legalizing abortion for rape victims may well encourage immoral behavior on the part of girls involved in illicit affairs, who would manipulate the code and claim they were raped.”

Other political observers are concerned that such a bill would open the door to doctors who want to do illegal abortions and would give them an excuse to do so claiming women had been sexually victimized.