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Gamete Donation and the Role of Religious Leaders in Iran

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In recent years, infertility has been considered as a medical problem as well as a social problem, thus couples have sought medical assistance to overcome childlessness. The introduction, however, of a third party in the creation of a child is supposedly highly problematic in many developing countries, including Iran. After the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the government dismantled family planning programs, although at the time there were no serious debates and policies on assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). In 1989, the government reversed its policies and since then has had one of the most successful family planning programs in the region. In this regard, other than socio-economic factors, opinion of jurists have influenced family planning programs and related issues like ARTs in Iran, thus the position of religious leaders has had a direct effect on how Iran has achieved its development goals including ARTs. Iran is the only Muslim country in the world in which ARTs using donor gametes and embryos have been legitimized by religious authorities and passed into law. This has placed Iran as a Shi‘a-dominant country in a quite distinguished position vis-à-vis the Sunni Islamic world, where all forms of gamete donation, based on many studies, are strictly prohibited.

In this article, the “Iranian ART Revolution” that has allowed donor technologies to be admitted as a form of assisted reproduction technology will be examined. In this regard, an attempt is made to explore religious leaders’ positive and negative views toward this issue. Thus, the verdicts or fatwas of mojtahedin in the context will be discussed. After providing a brief review of different opinions of mojtahedin, these differentiations through in-depth interviews with two prominent mojtaheds, Ayatollahs Mousavi Ardabili and Sobhani in 2007 on ARTs will be discussed to enrich the argument.

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor, Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran, Email:


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