UAE new abortion rules offer relief to women with high-risk pregnancies

According to one doctor, the move 'will surely be a lifesaver for mothers'

by

Angel Tesorero

/

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Mon 10 Jun 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 10 Jun 2024, 9:53 PM

M.K, a 31-year-old woman, experienced an extremely high-risk third pregnancy six years ago. A year before that, she had given birth to a stillborn, and during her third pregnancy, M.K had to undergo an abortion due to the diagnosis of a chromosomal anomaly in the baby.

On Sunday, she welcomed the announcement by UAE’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (Mohap) about the procedures and controls for cases where abortion is permitted.


“I already had a stillbirth and doctors were certain that if I carried the pregnancy to term, my health would be severely impacted,” she said. “I was in India at that time, and the option of abortion was easily accessible to me. Ever since I moved to the UAE, I was worried about what would happen if I conceived again. However, now I feel at ease knowing that such an option is also available to me here.”

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In its announcement, Mohap laid down several conditions and stipulated that a committee shall be established in each health authority to thoroughly examine abortion requests.

Welcome move

The medical fraternity welcomed the move as something that would make it easier for pregnant women in the country. “In the past, some women had to travel abroad to access safe abortion services,” said Dr Dani Hanna, head of department and consultant Obstetrics & Gynecology at Canadian Specialist Hospital Dubai. “This amendment ensures that such critical healthcare is available within the country, providing a safer and more supportive environment for women’s health."

Dr Dani Hanna
Dr Dani Hanna

Dr Kishan Pakkal, CEO at International Modern Hospital, agreed. “I commend the government for implementing a rule on abortion that prioritises the preservation of women’s lives and their safety,” he said.

Dr Kishan Pakkal
Dr Kishan Pakkal

According to one doctor, it is a relief for families who are dealing with heartbreak. “The policy takes into account all aspects like safety, religious, cultural beliefs of the country. It will surely be a life saver for our mothers,” said Dr Jasbir G. Chhatwal, specialist obstetrics & gynecology at Zulekha Hospital. “It will be of great relief for couples who are already devastated and mentally drained out when they find out that they have an anomalous baby, or the mother’s life is at risk due to pregnancy.”

Dr Jasbir G. Chhatwal
Dr Jasbir G. Chhatwal

The move will reduce risks in more ways than one, according to Dr Amal Aburawi, consultant obstetrics & gynecology at Saudi German Hospital Dubai. “The recent amendment of the UAE abortion law will reduce the risk of mums having any physical and mental negative impact,” she said. “It will also tremendously reduce the risk of having unsupervised options away from authorised personnel. We have many women approach us to discuss their available legal options to terminate unwanted pregnancy either for medical or mental reasons. The amendments take place under a legal authorised and supervised umbrella to ensure the safety of the women who will undergo such procedure.”

Dr Amal Aburawi
Dr Amal Aburawi

Legal stipulations

The decision on abortion requests shall be made by a dedicated committee that will be formed by Mohap or the head of an emirate’s health authority. The committee should comprise three doctors: one of them is an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist; the other is a psychiatry specialist. There should also be a representative from the Public Prosecution.

“The new regulations are a positive step towards regulating the abortion process in line with international standards and protecting individual rights,” said Ghouson Bashir, legal consultant. “They emphasize the importance of providing necessary healthcare for pregnant women in critical circumstances, while maintaining a balance between protecting the mother's life and the rights of the fetus.”

Ghouson Bashir
Ghouson Bashir

According to one legal expert, more information is awaited on an emirate level. “The announcement is a clarification of what was announced a few months ago,” said James Clarke, Of Counsel at BSA Law. “The crux of the matter is that while there are federal rules on reproductive health at all levels, much is devolved to an individual emirate level. It is awaited and it will come but in the meantime, the medical professionals are navigating it carefully.”

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