Until 1990, abortion was regulated by the Penal Code of 1860, permitted only to save the woman's life.

Following a 1989 decision by the Pakistani Supreme Court, the provisions were revised to conform to Islamic law in 1997.

Under the new law, abortion offences are divided into two categories, depending on the stage of pregnancy when the abortion is performed.

Abortions carried out before the unborn child's organs have formed, are prohibited except to save the woman's life, or to provide 'necessary treatment'.

Abortions after the organs or limbs have formed are only permitted to save the woman’s life. Under Islamic law, organs and limbs are usually deemed to be formed by the fourth month of pregnancy.

The new law has been criticized for the ambiguity of what defines 'necessary treatment', and the lack of clear demarcation of the two stages of pregnancy.