Cult Health Sex. 2017 Jul 19:1-17. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2017.1344301.

Perspectives on induced abortion among Palestinian women: religion, culture and access in the occupied Palestinian territories

Shahawy S and Diamond MB

Abstract Induced abortion is an important public health issue in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT), where it is illegal in most cases. This study was designed to elicit the views of Palestinian women on induced abortion given the unique religious, ethical and social challenges in the OPT. Sixty Palestinian women were interviewed on their perceptions of the religious implications, social consequences and accessibility of induced abortions in the OPT at Al-Makassed Islamic Charitable Hospital in East Jerusalem. Themes arising from the interviews included: the centrality of religion in affecting women's choices and views on abortion; the importance of community norms in regulating perspectives on elective abortion; and the impact of the unique medico-legal situation of the OPT on access to abortion under occupation. Limitations to safe abortion access included: legal restrictions; significant social consequences from the discovery of an abortion by one's community or family; and different levels of access to abortion depending on whether a woman lived in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, or Gaza. This knowledge should be incorporated to work towards a legal and medical framework in Palestine that would allow for safe abortions for women in need.

Comment: This paper makes it clear that for healthcare workers who deliver safe abortion care, it is not only important to be well trained medically, but also that they should be well aware of legal, cultural and religious issues, which should be part of the training package. (HMV)