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Open Access Debate

Controversies and considerations regarding the termination of pregnancy for Foetal Anomalies in Islam

Abdulrahman Al-Matary1* and Jaffar Ali2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Neonatology, King Fahad Medical City Riyadh, P.O. Box 59046, 11525 Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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BMC Medical Ethics 2014, 15:10  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-15-10

Published: 5 February 2014

Abstract

Background

Approximately one-fourth of all the inhabitants on earth are Muslims. Due to unprecedented migration, physicians are often confronted with cultures other than their own that adhere to different pdigms.

Discussion

In Islam, and most religions, abortion is forbidden. Islam is considerably liberal concerning abortion, which is dependent on (i) the threat of harm to mothers, (ii) the status of the pregnancy before or after ensoulment (on the 120th day of gestation), and (iii) the presence of foetal anomalies that are incompatible with life. Considerable variation in religious edicts exists, but most Islamic scholars agree that the termination of a pregnancy for foetal anomalies is allowed before ensoulment, after which abortion becomes totally forbidden, even in the presence of foetal abnormalities; the exception being a risk to the mother’s life or confirmed intrauterine death.

Summary

The authors urge Muslim law makers to also consider abortion post ensoulment if it is certain that the malformed foetus will decease soon after birth or will be severely malformed and physically and mentally incapacitated after birth to avoid substantial hardship that may continue for years for mothers and family members. The authors recommend that an institutional committee governed and monitored by a national committee make decisions pertaining to abortion to ensure that ethics are preserved and mistakes are prevented. Anomalous foetuses must be detected at the earliest possible time to enable an appropriate medical intervention prior to the 120th day.

Keywords:
Abortion; Ensoulment; Islam; Glorious Qur’an; Termination of pregnancy; TOP