Morocco arrests 11 for ‘illegal abortions’

Moroccan police said they arrested 11 people Tuesday for “illegal abortions” in the kingdom, where prison sentences for terminating pregnancies remain a topic of fierce public debate.

National security said it had opened an investigation after “receiving complaints about a clinic performing illegal abortions” in the tourist city of Marrakesh.

The 77-year-old doctor who owned the clinic, four nurses and six clients including a 17-year-old girl were detained on charges including illegal abortion, statutory rape, adultery and complicity in those offences, it said in a statement.

Eight of the defendants were remanded in custody, while the minor was placed “under police control”.

In 2015, Morocco debated the “urgent need” to reform legislation in the face of hundreds of clandestine abortions performed daily, often under appalling conditions.

An official commission recommended that abortion be legalised in special circumstances, including for cases of rape or serious fetal abnormalities. 

No law reform followed these recommendations, despite the lobbying of women’s rights supporters.

Abortion remains a criminal offence in Morocco, with penalties of one to five years in prison for those who perform the procedure and six months to a year in prison for women who undergo it. 

NGOs say up to 150 children are abandoned daily in Morocco, a phenomenon to which unwanted pregnancies contribute.