Despite Lebanon’s location in the Middle East, the nation is considered relatively liberal in terms of a woman’s ability to dress how she wants, receive an education and make decisions that affect her own body. Lebanon has strict laws against abortions, but regardless it has become a hot spot for women from many different countries wishing to have abortions.
Lebanon takes relationship statuses from religion, meaning that children born out of wedlock are given very little rights. This causes many women to feel the need to choose between having a child without rights or having an abortion.
In 2012, morning-after pills were legal in the country, but were taken off of shelves in over 20 pharmacies for reasons on which pharmacists would not comment.
Sandrine Atallah, the first sexologist in Lebanon, believes that if there were sexual education programs then there would be fewer abortions. In fact, there have been improvements in a woman’s ability to receive a general education in Lebanon, and with this, women are becoming exponentially more valuable in the workforce. However, many single and unmarried women, like Youmna (name changed), feel the only option they have when they get pregnant is to get an abortion.
According to Youmna, her abortion cost upwards of $500 and she was forced to ask her friends to lend her money. “The clinic was located in a poor neighborhood of Beirut. The only way you could tell it was a clinic was by the paper sign on the door,” said Youmna. Her friend told her after the operation that the doctor put the fetus in a Chivas bottle and then proceeded to toss it in the sink. He later hit on her through phone calls.
In Lebanon women are only allowed to have abortions to keep a woman from dying. One Beirut gynecologist stated that approximately 40% of his patients seeking abortions are traveling from other Middle Eastern countries.
The lack of options for women in these situations is creating a reliance upon desperate measures. Many women are resorting to dangerous drugs that may have the side effect of inducing miscarriages, and many are resorting to risky abortions in order to take back control of their bodies.
– Rebecca Felcon