UAE's New Abortion Rules Offer Relief to Women with High-Risk Pregnancies

New rules will make it easier for pregnant women to access critical healthcare services within the country

Owner's Profile

Pavitra Shetty

Published on June 13, 2024, 12:35:01


new abortion rules in uae

The UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) has introduced new procedures and controls for cases where abortion is permitted, offering significant relief to women with high-risk pregnancies.

Medical professionals have warmly welcomed this move, noting that it will make it easier for pregnant women to access critical healthcare services within the country. Previously, some women had to travel abroad for safe abortion services. This amendment ensures such care is now available locally, providing a safer and more supportive environment for women’s health.

The new rules prioritise the preservation of women’s lives and their safety. The policy takes into account all aspects such as safety, religious and cultural beliefs of the country. It will surely be a lifesaver for our mothers. It will also be a great relief for couples dealing with the devastating news of having an anomalous baby or facing risks to the mother’s life due to pregnancy.

The recent amendment to the UAE abortion law aims to reduce the physical and mental impact on mothers. It significantly lowers the risk associated with unsupervised procedures carried out away from authorised personnel.

Many women approach medical professionals to discuss their available legal options to terminate unwanted pregnancies, whether for medical or mental reasons. The amendments ensure these procedures are conducted under a legally authorised and supervised framework, guaranteeing the safety of the women involved.

Legal Stipulations

A dedicated committee, formed by Mohap or the head of an emirate’s health authority, will make decisions on abortion requests. This committee will include three specialists: an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist, a psychiatry specialist and a representative from the Public Prosecution. Additionally, the committee may consult a third party with appropriate expertise when necessary.

Permissible Circumstances for Abortion

Mohap has clearly stated that abortion is permissible if continuing the pregnancy endangers the woman’s life, if there is no alternative to save her life, or if severe foetal deformation is proven and will affect the newborn’s health and life. These cases must be supported by a medical report from a specialised medical committee. Other cases are also permitted, provided the gestational period does not exceed 120 days.

Authorised Facilities and Procedures

Abortions must be performed only in authorised healthcare facilities by licensed obstetrician-gynaecologists. The procedure must be free of medical complications that could put the woman’s life at high risk. Healthcare facilities are required to detail the rights and responsibilities of the pregnant woman, explain necessary healthcare requirements before and after the procedure, and maintain the privacy and confidentiality of personal data.

Responsibilities of Healthcare Facilities

Healthcare facilities must ensure the rights and privacy of women undergoing abortions. They are also responsible for monitoring and supervising their activities and ensuring compliance with regulations. Earlier this year, a UAE law was amended to ease consent rules, making it easier for medical professionals to carry out the procedure if the mother's life is in grave danger. Consent is not a condition in emergency cases requiring immediate surgical intervention.

Notable Changes in the Law

The amendments to the law have updated previous provisions, asserting that only the consent of the pregnant woman, and not her husband, is required to commence an abortion. In emergency cases requiring immediate surgical intervention, consent is not a condition. Medical professionals are allowed to carry out abortions in two primary scenarios:

  •  If the continuation of the pregnancy endangers the pregnant woman's life.
  •  If foetal deformation is proven.

In both cases, multiple conditions apply according to the law. This is a notable change as the law now imposes a hierarchy for consent, in which the pregnant woman’s consent takes priority.

This development champions the autonomy of women and increases the availability of abortion operations to women that fulfil the criteria needed by the law. The amendment also removes the restriction limiting the availability of abortion to 120 days of gestation if the pregnancy poses a risk to the mother’s life.

Additionally, the law has granted the cabinet the power to issue resolutions determining other cases of permitted abortion, which is a promising inclusion. These amendments exemplify the UAE's commitment to staying up-to-date and being open to foreigners and their diverse cultures.

The medical liability law emphasises the duties practitioners must uphold to protect the dignity and sanctity of life as well as the autonomy of patients. It requires doctors to use relevant technologies for proper diagnosis, ensure confidentiality and obtain informed consent.

Both the law and its amendments recognise scenarios that necessitate abortion operations. Abortion is allowed when the pregnant woman’s life is endangered to the extent that it is the only viable option to save her life. It may also be done if the foetus is “seriously and incurably deformed.”

Abortions performed under any other scenario, even with parental consent, are punishable by imprisonment for up to four years. If an abortion leads to the death of the victim, the medical professional may be jailed for up to ten years.

These changes are particularly relevant given recent updates in UAE law, such as allowing single mothers to give birth in the country. Under the previous law, a single mother with a medical complication requiring an abortion would have needed consent from her next male relatives. Now, only the woman’s consent is required, making an already emotionally difficult procedure slightly easier without the need for additional consent forms.

The UAE has amended its abortion laws to streamline the consent process and prioritise the health and well-being of pregnant women. Now, only the woman's consent is required, and immediate intervention is allowed in emergencies without prior consent.

These changes ensure safer and more accessible abortion services within the country.  

For any enquiries or information, contact ask@tlr.ae or call us on +971 52 644 3004Follow The Law Reporters on WhatsApp Channels.