The United Arab Emirates has a very restrictive law on abortion. Abortion is permitted only in case the life of a mother is in grave danger. It is illegal under all other circumstances, such as preserving the physical and mental health of the mother, pregnancy as a result of rape or incest or foetal malformations. When an abortion is performed, the person performing the abortion can be jailed for up to five years. When it is performed against the wishes of the woman, the punishment is increased and the perpetrator can be imprisoned for the duration of seven years. The woman seeking abortion may receive corporal punishment in the form of lashings or be imprisoned. After serving her term, she is deported from the country.
Under the rare circumstances when abortion is performed legally, it can only be performed by a trained gynaecologist after seeking an opinion from an expert of the disease which endangers the woman’s life. Written consent from the woman’s husband or guardian is also essential. The law applies to all the people living in UAE, irrespective of their nationality.
In addition to the strict law, no contraceptive support is provided by the government. An unmarried pregnant woman is often left with limited options as sex outside marriage is illegal and is punishable by imprisonment or corporal punishment. In addition, many men fail to take the responsibility for their actions, some even going to the extent of turning the woman into the police. This has led to a rampant use of illegal abortions in the country. Most of these abortions are unsafe and the women go to any extent to get rid of the unwanted pregnancy. They resort to herbal methods or primitive barbaric methods which seriously endanger their lives. The use of abortion pills obtained illegally is a fairly common practice. Most of the times, these pills are sold by persons who have minimal or no medical knowledge. There have been reports of overusing the pill as much as five times the recommended dose.
The women are also not made aware of the possible complications, how to recognize the complications and when to seek help. Many women are unsure of their dates and they are unaware that the pills work only for first nine weeks of pregnancy. If the pregnancy is beyond nine weeks, the chances of incomplete abortion and the subsequent complications like uterine infection and excessively heavy bleeding which can endanger a woman’s life are more common. Some of the persons offering unsafe abortion through abortion pills make promises to help the woman seek another method of abortion in case the pills do not work. However, very little importance is given to the safety of the procedure in these cases.
Though the exact figures regarding the total number of unsafe abortions in the country and maternal mortality due to the same cannot be obtained as abortion is illegal, according to WHO estimate, abortion rates in UAE are similar to those countries where abortion is legal. The difference being, in the countries where abortion is legal, there is an improvement in maternal mortality due to abortions, which less risk of complications.