ABU DHABI // Doctors say the morning-after pill is banned in the UAE because of misconceptions that it is a form of abortion rather than an interceptive.
Abortion at any stage is haram, or prohibited, in Islam.
“The problem is that this pill has been promoted as an abortifacient, which means it causes an abortion,” said Dr Nazura Siddiqi, specialist gynecologist at LLH Hospital, Mussaffah.
“It does not cause an abortion. The pill can act in two ways depending on what stage of her menstrual cycle a woman is at.
“As a contraceptive, it prevents an ovulation or acts as an interceptive. Even if there is fertilisation, the embryo does not get implanted in the uterus.
“But at any stage, once the embryo is implanted in the uterus, the pill cannot cause an abortion or a termination of the pregnancy.”
Morning-after pills are a form of emergency contraception that need to be taken in the first three to five days after sexual activity, depending on the brand.
The World Health Organisation states that emergency contraception pills cannot interrupt an established pregnancy or harm a developing embryo.
One woman, a 25-year-old Emirati from Abu Dhabi, said she has bought morning-after pills from the UK and Kuwait to keep as an emergency back-up.
“It makes me feel safe to have them in the house,” she said. “I have had three C-sections before and it would be unsafe for me to have another – I don’t want to go through that again. So I have an emergency supply.”
A British friend told her about the method of emergency contraception and got her her first supply, she said.
“Sometimes accidents happen,” she said.
Emergency contraception can be used following unprotected intercourse, contraceptive failure, incorrect use of contraceptives or in cases of sexual assault.
“The morning-after pill can be used by any sexually active couple,” said Dr Sidddiqi. “In fact, the people who use this are the people who do not want an abortion.
“These pills protect people from an unwanted pregnancy.
“Many married couples who have just had a child do not want another child at that time. Sometimes couples use a contraceptive method but it fails them.
“Women who are married with families, sometimes absolutely don’t want a child. I get at least a few cases every week of people with unwanted pregnancies.”
Dr Yuliya Burmagina, a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology at Femiclinic at Dubai Healthcare City, does not support the ban on morning-after pills.
“Sometimes they need to be used by married couples,” said Dr Burmagina.
The only other type of emergency birth control is contraceptive pills taken in a special way or insertion of the coil within 72 hour of unprotected sex, she said.
She believes the morning-after pill may be banned because it is associated with abortion.
“That may be the reason why the pills are not available,” she said. “It cannot be compared to abortion as it works primarily by delaying the ovulation. In case of loop it prevents the fertilisation process. So, no analogy with the termination of pregnancy can be found.”
More awareness on the difference between the two is needed to quell any misconceptions, she said.
“Awareness and the correct information is needed so the older restrictions may be reassessed,” Dr Burmagina said.