Legalisation of contraception
Contraceptive methods were illegal, and their prescription, promotion, or sale were sanctioned by provisions in the Penal Code, originally derived from the 1920 French anti-contraception law. These provisions inflicted penalties – ranging from imprisonment to the payment of fines – on anyone who prevented pregnancy. It was not until 1983 that stipulations against contraception were abrogated, and the Ministry of Health assigned “a fund for family planning services, including sterilisation, which is not regulated by State law.”
Abortion remains illegal under the Lebanese Penal Code (Art. 539-540), however, resulting in a penalty of imprisonment. The penalty for abortion varies, but it can be extended if it was performed against a woman’s will or if it compromised her life, leading to her death. In case the abortion was carried out to “protect a woman’s honour,” the penalty for it is attenuated.
Abortions continue to be performed in Lebanon in hazardous conditions and illegal settings that can endanger women’s health; there are no official records of the numbers of these abortions, however. Emergency contraceptives are available in the Lebanese pharmaceutical market, and can be purchased over the counter.