Illegal and Unsafe Abortion on the Rise in Dubai

Despite draconian laws and a culture of blame, women in Dubai and other states of the United Arab Emirates are increasingly turning to "do-it-yourself" abortions and endangering their lives in the process.

GulfNews.com reports that an increasing number of women in Dubai, a country where abortion is illegal, are turning to potentially dangerous do-it-yourself (DIY) abortions to end unwanted and untenable pregnancies, using a medication otherwise mean to prevent gastric ulcers.

“This frightening new trend,” writes reporter Muby Asger, “is a talking point on internet chat sites where UAE residents are writing in with abortion-related queries.”

Demand for DIY abortions has increased as women seek to terminate unintended pregnancies despite strict laws.

J.C., a Filipino expat who sells the pill provides “advice” on its use on an internet chat forum:

J.C., a vendor of the pill charges Dh1,500 for a course of five pills. While the recommended dosage for medicinal purposes is one pill a day, J.C. recommends taking “the first pill at 7pm, followed by two pills at 7am and another two at 7pm to induce an abortion or miscarriage. With the minimum of five pills consumed, bleeding is guaranteed to occur within 24 hours”.

In the event of a pregnancy that’s over six weeks, J.C. recommends doubling the dose. “Since there is the risk of extremely heavy bleeding in those cases, we recommend an over-the-counter drug to help combat the cramps,” she says. For those willing to take the risk, J.C.’s husband is available any time of the day in Bur Dubai to conduct the transaction.

According to Asger, another Dubai-based seller lists her e-mail address on a chat forum, with a message that her services are available exclusively for the UAE market.

If the pill doesn’t abort the foetus, the seller guarantees a termination with a medical procedure for free. What the seller doesn’t mention are the methods used, the safety of the mother’s life, the sterility of the instruments‚Ķ

When contacted, writes Asger, another dealer, who chose to remain anonymous, gave no guarantee of a successful abortion and even warned that consumption of the pill may result in an ectopic pregnancy or, in rare cases, death through extreme bleeding or fatal infections.

Despite the risks, Asger writes that women often have little choice. “Having a child outside wedlock results in a jail term followed by deportation. When a single woman gets pregnant she has two options: Get married quickly or leave the country.”

Abortion is illegal under most conditions throughout the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a member state.

Section 340 of the UAE Penal Code stipulates that “any person inducing a voluntary pregnancy termination in a pregnant woman by providing her with medicaments or by using instruments for this purpose is liable to up to five years’ imprisonment.” The penalty is seven years if the termination is without the woman’s consent.

Medical termination of pregnancies (MTP) is allowed when it can be proved that the continuation of pregnancy would be detrimental to the life of the mother or the child. But it has to be done before the foetus is four months old. The procedure also requires the approval of a medical panel and the written consent of the woman’s husband or guardian.

Under general criminal law, an abortion may be performed to save the life of the pregnant woman.

“According to a legal expert,” writes Asger, “abortion is not allowed even if the pregnancy results from rape. Even conditions like Down’s Syndrome and other deformities that can be discovered during pregnancy do not warrant medical terminations under the UAE law.”

Men take little if any responsibility or “blame” for unintended pregnancies.

Asger interviewed a woman who used drugs purchased on line to induce abortion:

“My boyfriend at the time said that he wanted to have nothing more to do with me, would never even consider marrying me and that if I did go ahead and have the baby, he would disown it. Moreover, he threatened to report me to Dubai Police if I didn’t find a way to get rid of this pregnancy. I had no clue what to do, so I went online and found a maternity ward in Mumbai that deals with both births and terminations.”

The combination of lack of contraceptive methods, the illegality of abortion, and the blame placed on women results in women either taking potentially dangerous drugs to self-induce or to engage in abortion migration, going to other countries such as Britain to obtain an abortion.

Illegal abortions, men “turning in” the women they’ve impregnated, women risking their lives to end an unintended and untenable pregnancy.

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