(June 2002) This overview of Iran’s family planning efforts and the role of the Islamic government and civil society in the revival of the national family planning program is the second in a series of policy briefs from the Population Reference Bureau. This series analyzes population, environment, reproductive health, and development linkages within the framework of the Cairo Programme of Action and the cultural contexts of population groups in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Future briefs on MENA will cover specific population-related topics or country case studies.

Iran has experienced dramatic demographic change in the last decade. Levels of childbearing have declined faster than in any other country, and maternal and child health have greatly improved. These changes have coincided with the revival of the national family planning program, which is delivered through a nationwide network of primary health care facilities. Many observers have wondered how such a dramatic increase in contraceptive use could have occurred in a traditional society ruled by Islamic law.