A senior official of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said the government is working to draft a law allowing therapeutic abortions, as part of the country's prevention programme of genetic disorders.
"We are studying it from two ways: on the mother or child's health. But the choice to have the abortion will be under the umbrella of religion. Whatever we decide has to be within the religious and social environment," Ali Shakar of the ministry of health was quoted as saying in Gulf News Thursday.
According to the draft law, it will be legal to terminate fetuses with severe genetic disorders such as thalassemia.
Abortion is currently prohibited in the UAE unless it is to save the life of the mother. But some Islamic scholars argue that abortion of a diseased fetus is also allowed as long as it is younger than 120 days.
About one in 12 Emiratis carry the gene for thalassemia, a genetic disease characterized by the breakdown of oxygen-rich red blood cells, and other haemoglobinopathies.
Other than thalassemia and sickle cell anemia, genetic disorders that may be also eligible for abortion include Trisomy 21 or Down's syndrome, caused by triplication of the 21st chromosome, said Shakar.