02 Jul India’s law on abortion
India’s law on abortion
Why in News?
Some issues are not addressed in the 2021 amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.
Evolution of India’s abortion law
Following a spike in the incidence of induced abortions in the 1960s, the Union government mandated the formation of the Shantilal Shah Committee to consider the country’s abortion legalisation.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act was put into effect in 1971 with the goal of lowering maternal mortality caused by unsafe abortions.
This law establishes the guidelines for how and when a medical abortion may be performed. It is an exemption to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provisions of 312 and 313.
A person who “voluntarily induces a woman with child to miscarry” is subject to punishment under Section 312 of the IPC, which carries a maximum three-year prison sentence, a fine, or both, unless it was done in good faith with the intention to preserve the pregnant woman’s life.
In India, this clause effectively outlaws all forms of abortion.
According to Section 313 of the IPC, a person who induces a miscarriage without the pregnant woman’s agreement, regardless of whether she is far along in her pregnancy, will be subject to a fine, life in prison, or a prison sentence that could last up to 10 years.
Evolution of MTP between 1971 and 2021
The MTP Act underwent its most recent modification in 2021.Prior to that, new regulations were introduced in 2003 to permit the use of misoprostol, an abortion drug that had just been discovered, to end a pregnancy up to seven weeks into it.
Abortion is legal following a doctor’s recommendation under certain conditions, according to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act of 2021.
The 2021 Act expanded the maximum gestational period to which a woman may obtain a medical abortion from the 20 weeks allowed by the 1971 Act to 24 weeks.
This updated upper limit is only applicable in certain circumstances.
Up to 20 weeks of gestation, MTP might now be accessible based on the recommendation of a single licensed medical professional.
Two licensed medical professionals’ opinions are needed between 20 and 24 weeks.
A medical abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy required the approval of one registered doctor under the previous version of the Act, while abortions up to 20 weeks required the approval of two doctors.
Additionally, if a pregnancy must be terminated beyond 24 weeks of gestation, only a four-member Medical Board, established in each State under the Act, may do so on the basis of fetal abnormalities.
Despite any of the aforementioned restrictions, the legislation also stipulates that an abortion may be performed whenever necessary by a single licenced medical professional in order to preserve the pregnant woman’s life.
Because the 2021 Act does not include the need for spousal consent, unmarried women may also seek abortion under the aforementioned conditions. However, a guardian’s approval is necessary if the woman is a minor.
Judicial actions taken in cases involving abortions
The decision by a pregnant person to continue a pregnancy or not is part of that person’s right to privacy as well as their right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court held in the landmark Right to Privacy judgement in the 2017 case Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India and others. Despite the fact that the country’s current laws do not permit unconditional abortions,
In February 2022, the Calcutta High Court granted a 37-year-old woman’s request for a medical abortion at 34 weeks of pregnancy because the foetus had been identified as having an intractable spinal disorder.
Objections to the abortion law
A 2018 report published in the Lancet estimates that as of 2015, India saw 15.6 million abortions annually.
The latest National Family Health Survey 2019–2021 found that 27% of abortions were performed at home by the mother herself.
Around 8 women perish every day in India as a result of unsafe abortions, according to the State of the World Population Report 2022 by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
According to the MTP Act, only gynaecologists or obstetricians are permitted to perform abortions.
Critics claim that because the law prohibits abortions performed at any time, it forces women to acquire unsafe, illegal abortions.
According to statistics, 8,00,000 unsafe and illegal abortions are carried out annually in India, many of which result in maternal death.
As “woman” is used in the legislation, pregnant transgender and non-binary people who are biologically able to have children are excluded.
They are compelled to ignore their gender identification and identify as one of the gender-binary.
Affordability and social stigma that encourage unsafe abortions are other major problems.
Private medical facilities with abortion services are pricy and only accessible to those with sufficient funds.
India’s condition is far from ideal, so now is the time to consider global progressive practices and learn from them.
We should work toward reproductive equity, total physical autonomy, and inclusivity.
We shouldn’t start governing by gauging our progress by the rate of regression.
Legal, medical, and societal considerations must be taken into account while evaluating bodily autonomy and reproductive rights.
One cannot say that India is paving the way for the West until women and non-binary pregnant people have complete authority over their own bodies according to these standards.