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Understanding Abortion Laws in the UAE

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Understanding Abortion Laws in the UAE

The UAE has recently implemented significant legal reforms regarding abortion, reproductive rights, and medical ethics. The legal framework governing abortion is primarily set out in Federal Decree-Law No. 4/2016 on Medical Liability and its amendment with Federal Decree-Law No. 18/2023. Additionally, Federal Decree-Law No. 31/2021 on the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law outlines the penalties for unlawful abortions. These laws outline the circumstances under which abortion is permitted, the procedures to be followed, and the penalties for unlawful abortions.

Federal Decree-Law No. 4/2016 On Medical Liability

The Federal Decree-Law No. 4/2016 concerning Medical Liability, along with its recent amendments, emphasizes the importance of adhering to established legislation concerning Assisted Reproductive Technology for women and embryo implantation. This provision ensures that such procedures are conducted per existing laws, safeguarding the rights and well-being of individuals involved in reproductive processes.

Key Provisions of Article 16:

1. Life-Threatening Circumstances (Case 1):

   – Abortion is permitted if the continuation of the pregnancy endangers the life of the pregnant woman.

   – Abortion must be done at a governmental health facility or a specifically licensed private health facility.

   – Physicians must draft a report justifying the abortion operation with the consent of the pregnant woman or her spouse/guardian, unless in emergencies where immediate intervention is required.

2. Fetal Deformity (Case 2):

   – Abortion is allowed if fetal malformation is proven to have occurred, affecting the fetus’s health and life after birth.

   – This must be proven by a medical report issued by a medical committee.

   – The abortion must be based on the approval of the pregnant woman or her spouse/guardian.

   – Additional conditions may be imposed by the Cabinet.

Amendments Introduced by Federal Decree-Law No. 18/2023

The recent amendments introduced by Federal Decree-Law No. 18/2023 bring several significant changes:

1. Approval Requirements:

   – The husband’s approval for abortion is no longer required in both cases. Only the approval of the pregnant woman is needed. If her approval cannot be verified due to her medical condition, the approval from her husband or guardian (e.g., father) is necessary. No approval is needed in emergencies requiring immediate surgical intervention.

2. Licensed Facilities:

   – Abortion in life-threatening cases (Case 1) can only be performed in governmental health facilities or specifically licensed private health facilities.

3. Removal of 120-Day Condition:

   – The previous requirement that the pregnancy must be less than 120 days for an abortion in fetal deformity cases (Case 2) has been removed. However, the Cabinet may introduce new requirements.

Federal Decree-Law No. 31/2021 on the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law

Article 391 of the UAE Penal Code establishes the legal consequences for unlawful abortion practices in the UAE:

– Self-Abortion: Pregnant women who self-abort or consent to abortion may face imprisonment, fines, or both.

– Consensual Abortion: Individuals causing abortions with a woman’s consent risk imprisonment or fines. Healthcare professionals performing abortions without legal justification may be imprisoned.

– Non-Consensual Abortion: Non-consensual abortion may lead to imprisonment for offenders. Attempted abortion carries penalties equal to half of the completed acts.


The UAE’s legal framework on abortion emphasizes clear guidelines for healthcare providers and individuals, ensuring that abortion practices are conducted responsibly and ethically, with due consideration for the rights and dignity of all parties involved. The imposition of penalties for unlawful abortion practices underscores the seriousness with which the UAE addresses violations of reproductive rights and medical ethics.

How Al Kabban & Associates Can Assist

At Al Kabban & Associates, we have over 30 years of experience providing comprehensive legal services in Dubai and the UAE. We are accredited by the Legal 500 as a leading firm for the past five consecutive years. Our team of expert lawyers is well-versed in the nuances of UAE law, including the recent amendments to the abortion laws.

We offer expert legal advice and representation for individuals and healthcare providers navigating the complex legal landscape of reproductive rights in the UAE. If you have any queries related to the new laws and their implications, please feel free to contact us at


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