Change in UAE law on abortion eases consent rules, protects pregnant woman's life

According to the law, consent shall not be a condition in emergency cases that require immediate surgical intervention

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Sahim Salim

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Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Mon 19 Feb 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 19 Feb 2024, 11:01 PM

An amendment to an existing UAE law has made it easier for medical professionals to conduct an abortion if the mother’s life is in grave danger. According to lawyers in the country, this significant change puts the pregnant woman in charge of her health.

“The amendments to the law updated the previous provisions to assert that only the consent of the pregnant woman, and not her husband, is required to commence an abortion operation (among other conditions),” said Hadiel Hussein, senior associate at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP.


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As per the new regulation, in a situation when the woman is not able to provide consent, the woman’s husband or, in the absence of the husband, her male relatives as defined under the Personal Status Law are required to consent to the abortion operation.


According to the law, consent shall not be a condition in emergency cases that require immediate surgical intervention.

Medical professionals are allowed to carry out abortion only in two cases:

- If the continuity of the pregnancy endangers the pregnant woman's life.

- If the foetus deformation is proved.

In both cases, however, multiple conditions apply, according to the law.

Notable change

“This is a notable change as the law now imposes a hierarchy for consent, in which the pregnant woman’s consent takes priority,” said Hussein. “This is a longed-for development, as it 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 since 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,” said lawyer Nadine Mukhtar. “These amendments also 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 which must strictly be upheld by practitioners to protect and strike a balance between the dignity and sanctity of life, as well as the dignity and autonomy of patients. It requires doctors to use relevant technologies to conduct a proper diagnosis, ensure confidentiality of patients and get an informed consent.

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

Abortions performed in any other scenario – even with parental consent - is punishable with imprisonment for up to four years. If the abortion leads to death of the victim, the medical professional may be jailed for up to 10 years.

Welcome move

The move was also welcomed by medical practitioners. Dr. Susmita Das, obstetrics and gynaecology specialist at Aster Hospital in Mankhool said that the amendment was in line with recent developments. “In case a woman needs an abortion for medical reasons, it only requires her consent now and not the consent of her husband or male relatives,” she said. “This makes an already emotionally difficult procedure for the mother a little bit easier without having to worry about getting the necessary consent forms signed.”

She added that given recent other changes in UAE law, this was a very apt amendment. “Now that the UAE has permitted single mothers to be able to give birth in the country, this amendment becomes important” she said. “Under the previous law, if a single mother has a medical complication and requires an abortion, she would have had to reach out to her next male relatives to sign a consent form.”

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