Where Iran Really Is Revolutionary

In an interview about the risks of human overpopulation, Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us, argues that Iran, of all places, has developed “the most successful family-planning program in the history of the planet.” How they did it?

[T]he present ayatollah, Khamenei, issued a fatwa saying there was nothing in the Qur’an against having an operation if you felt that you had enough children that you could take care of. Everything from condoms through pills, injections, tubal ligations, vasectomies, IUDs—everything was free, and everything was available in the farthest reaches of the country.

I interviewed this wonderful woman, an OB/GYN who was part of this, right after the plan was implemented, ten years after the Iranian Revolution, in the late ’80s. She was going on horseback into these little villages to help perform vasectomies and tubal ligations. As the country grew more prosperous, her transportation changed to four-wheel-drive trucks and even helicopters. Everyone was guaranteed contraception if they wanted it.

The only thing that was obligatory in Iran was premarital counseling, which is actually a very nice idea. I recommend it to everybody who’s contemplating getting married. The Quakers do it in our country, and, for six months before a couple gets married, they attend classes. In Iran, you could go to a mosque, or you could just go to a health center. They would talk about things to get you prepared for getting married, including what it costs to have a child, to raise a child, to educate a child.

People got the message really well. They were told, “Have as many children as you want to have, as you think you can take care of.” Most Iranians continue to choose to have either one or two.

A few months ago, Narges Bajoghli reported that sanctions have made birth control harder to come by in the country:

For years, there has been a plethora of birth control pills and other contraceptives easily available and extremely affordable in Iran, a country that boosts one of the most successful family planning programs in the world. It is only in the aftermath of cumulative American-led sanctions against Iran’s banking and financial sectors that most of these options have disappeared from pharmacies. Up until two months ago, pharmacists told me, there were simply no foreign made birth control pills available at all. Many doctors are wary of prescribing the Iranian-made pills because sanctions have made access to the raw materials required to produce them nearly impossible, making many of these drugs unreliable.