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Saudi Arabia: Woman in Labor Must Bring in Man

Saturday, October 4, 2003

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(WOMENSENEWS)--This week, Saudi Arabia's Deputy Minister of Health Dr. Qassim Al-Qasabi issued a directive, effective immediately, recommending that all hospitals admit pregnant women only when they are accompanied by men who will take responsibility for the mother and child, reported the Arab News.

The action was the direct result of a joint ministries committee meeting addressing findings that children of unmarried mothers accounted for the largest percentage of abandoned children.

In accordance with the directive, the man accompanying the woman must produce a photocopy of his Saudi Arabian identification card, which immediately becomes part of the woman's medical file. He must also sign a document naming him accountable for the mother and child.

Should a woman be admitted to the emergency room unaccompanied by a man, she will be made to wait in a designated room to prevent her from fleeing, according to the directive. The woman will be placed under surveillance until a man comes forward to claim responsibility for the mother and child. In the event that a man does not come forward, the single mother will be turned over to the Saudi Arabian social service providers.

"I've never heard of a case where an unmarried mother has given birth here," Ali Al-Farsi, a senior administrator at Jeddah's Maternity and Children's Hospital told Arab News. "However, if that does happen, we are required to notify the police, who tell us what to do. We do not refuse treatment to anyone, but we do notify the authorities and it is up to them to take action."

-- Carline Bennett.