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Amnesty International Morocco : «If I could have had an abortion, my life wouldn't be hell»

Amnesty International published its latest report, «My life is ruined: The need to decriminalize abortion in Morocco», on Tuesday. The organization criticizes the devastating effects of criminalizing abortion, particularly for victims of rape.

rotesters from the organisation Fédération des Ligues des Droits des Femmes (FLDF). / Ph. Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra
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«The Moroccan state is failing to meet its obligations to ensure accessible sexual and reproductive health services, including abortion», said Amnesty International, revealing its investigation's results at a press conference on Tuesday.

In theory, Morocco's Constitution guarantees rights to life, health, and freedom from torture. However, criminalizing abortion violates international standards and is considered «a form of gender-based violence and discrimination», according to Amnesty International.

The Moroccan Penal Code punishes sexual relations outside marriage, with prison sentences ranging from one month to one year for unmarried couples and one to two years for adultery, and denies children born from these relationships legal identity, as the law only recognizes paternity within marriage.

This code, along with the Family Code, deprives these children of the right to bear their biological father's name, receive financial support or inheritance, thus contributing to poverty and discrimination against them.

In addition, the Civil Status Code does not guarantee unmarried women the right to obtain a family record book, essential for declaring birth and accessing vital services such as healthcare, education, legal aid and social benefits.

As for abortion, its practice is prohibited unless performed by a licensed physician or surgeon and deemed necessary to preserve the woman's life or health. Health professionals who perform abortions outside these conditions risk losing their right to practice.

They are also obliged to testify in court and disclose information about abortions, in breach of medical confidentiality. Those performing or attempting abortions face imprisonment of between six months and two years, as well as heavy fines. In addition, they can be prosecuted for sexual relations outside marriage, which carries additional prison sentences.

A reminder of international obligations

Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amjad Yamin, highlights Morocco's international obligations. «No state should dictate pregnancy decisions», he said, emphasizing women's right to access essential sexual and reproductive healthcare, including abortion.

«Morocco's discriminatory laws deny women the right to information and support to make autonomous decisions about their pregnancies».

Yamin stressed that international law guarantees access to safe and legal abortions with privacy and confidentiality.

A policy leading to clandestine abortions

The restrictions imposed by the Moroccan authorities, combined with the absence of medical guidelines on legal abortions, considerably limit women's access to safe, legal means of terminating their pregnancies.

This forces them to resort to clandestine, unregulated, dangerous and often costly methods. It is estimated that between 700 and 1,000 women have abortions every day in Morocco. Among the women interviewed, some reported having used a variety of dangerous abortion methods, including misuse of diverted drugs, ingestion of harmful chemical mixtures or scarification.

One tried unsuccessfully to abort on her own, but was eventually forced to carry her pregnancy to term despite injuries and a severe infection. However, it is important to note that the sample of young women selected by the organization is not representative of the population as a whole.

Most of these women come from precarious backgrounds and do not benefit from the same resources as middle-class or well-off women. As a result, they are unable to travel to private clinics and pay considerable sums for a safe abortion.

Recommendations to the Moroccan authorities

Amnesty International sent letters to Moroccan authorities in March and November 2023, and again in January 2024, requesting meetings and data on abortion policies. They have not received a response as of the report's publication.

The organization recommends reforms to the Penal Code regarding abortion, sexual relations outside marriage, and violence against women. They also suggest revisions to the Family and Civil Status Codes to address issues of filiation and identification. Finally, Amnesty International urges the Ministry of Health to develop a regulatory framework on abortion aligned with WHO guidelines and implement policies that fulfill Morocco's international reproductive health obligations.


Amnesty International's report is based on interviews conducted from May 2022 to March 2023 with 77 individuals, including 33 women who had sought abortion services, across 22 towns and villages in Morocco.

Interviews were held with healthcare workers (general practitioners and gynecologists), a hospital-based social worker, legal professionals (lawyers and a magistrate), and representatives from various Moroccan NGOs working in the fields of women's rights, disability rights, and civil rights, across five regions of the country.

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