Pro-choice activists are up in arms after Alabama passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the United States.
Last week, the Alabama Senate passed and Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the controversial bill that enforces a near-total ban on all abortions. Under the new law, abortions are prohibited at any stage of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest, unless the pregnant person's life is at risk.
The law has stirred up debates on the topic of abortion, with people all around the world weighing in on the matter, and Arabs naturally joined the conversation. The Arab world is no stranger to restrictive abortion laws, with most countries in the region - minus a few exceptions - deeming abortion as a crime and only permitting it when the woman's health is threatened.
Here's a rundown on abortion laws across the Arab world:
Abortion is legal in Tunisia
The Muslim-majority country offers safe abortion at government hospitals and licensed clinics and does not require women to justify their decision to undergo the procedure, as long as it occurs within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After the first trimester, abortion is legal in cases of fetal abnormalities and in case the mother's physical or mental health is at risk.
According to a 2017 study by the National Office for Family and Population (ONFP), an average of 16,000 abortions are performed per year in the country, the majority of which are sought by rape victims.
Still, the topic is considered a taboo in the country and women seeking abortions struggle with societal pressure and prejudice, according to France24.
But most Arab countries strictly prohibit the procedure
According to an interactive map by the Center for Reproductive Rights, 11 Arab countries ban abortion altogether or only allow it (explicitly or implicitly) if the woman's life is in danger. These countries are Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia.
Other countries, which allow abortion to preserve the health of the woman even if her life is not at risk, include Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Djibouti, Algeria, and Morocco.
Each national law stipulates its unique conditions and exceptions
Algeria notably recognizes the preservation of a woman's mental health, alongside her physical health, as an exception to the ban on abortions.
In the UAE, apart from the case of a mother's life being at risk, abortion is legal in case of evidence that the baby would be born with fatal deformities and would not survive, on the conditions that the fetus is aborted within 17 weeks of pregnancy and that the procedure is authorized by a medical panel, according to The National.
Additionally, some countries including Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, require spousal consent if the woman is married.
What's at risk?
The penalties for abortions vary across the Arab world, ranging between prison time and fines, or both. Penalties are imposed on women who undergo the procedure as well as doctors who perform it.
For instance, according to Articles 541 and 542 of the Lebanese Penal Code, a woman who voluntarily attempts to abort her fetus faces six months to three years in prison. Meanwhile, any individual who performs the abortion procedure on a woman faces one to three years in prison.
In the face of restrictive laws, many women in the region are forced to seek abortions in unsafe and unsanitary environments, where they are subject to financial blackmail, extortion, and sexual harassment by those performing the procedure.