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Here's What Indian Laws Say About Abortions - UPSC Current Affairs

Aug 8, 2022

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About The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021

Issues in the MTP act 2021

Abortions in India

Way Forward

What Indian Laws Say About Abortions


Recent rulings of the US courts with regard to right to abortion has sparked a debate globally over the legal provisions regarding termination of pregnency.

Probable Questions: After a recent judgment by US Supreme Court, the debate over Abortion and Surrogacy sparked again. Critically analyze the provisions of the Indian laws in this context.

About The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021

● The act says, that a pregnancy can be terminated on conditions like –

○ Grave danger to the physical/mental health of the pregnant woman;

○ Foetal abnormalities;

○ Rape/coercion;

○ Contraceptive failure.

Termination due to failure of contraceptive method or device: Under the Act a pregnancy may be terminated up to 20 weeks by a married woman in the case of failure of contraceptive method or device.  The Bill allows unmarried women to also terminate a pregnancy for this reason.

Medical Boards:  All state and union territory governments will constitute a Medical Board.   The Board will decide if a pregnancy may be terminated after 24 weeks due to substantial foetal abnormalities. Each Board will have a gynecologist, pediatrician, radiologist/ sonologist, and other members notified by the state government.

Privacy: A registered medical practitioner may only reveal the details of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated to a person authorised by law.  Violation is punishable with imprisonment up to a year, a fine, or both.

Issues in the MTP act 2021

○ It doesn’t give the pregnant person complete autonomy in ending the pregnancy.

Registered medical practitioners (RMP) decision “in good faith” to terminate a pregnancy is considered final instead of the pregnant person.

○ The pregnant person has to go through various systemic barriers and has to obtain the consent of multiple doctors.

○ It uses the word “woman”, thereby leaving out pregnant transgender and non-binary persons who are biologically capable of bearing children, thus ignoring their gender identity.

Categories of women who can terminate pregnancy between 20-24 weeks not specified.

Time frame for Medical Board’s decision not specified, delay on their behalf may cross the limit of 24 weeks.

Unavailability of qualified medical professionals to terminate pregnancies may also lead to delays and complications.

Abortions in India

● Unsafe abortion was one of the top three causes of maternal deaths.

● Each day around 8 women die in India due to unsafe abortions, as per the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) State of the World Population Report 2022.

● In another report it is found that 67% of abortions were classified as unsafe, between 2007-2011.

● The data in the latest National Family Health Survey-5 (NHFS) 2019-2021 depicts that 27% of the abortions were carried out by the woman herself at home.

Significant issues:

○ The lack of access to RMPs, affordability, and social stigma leading to unsafe abortions.

○ Abortion facilities in private medical centers are expensive, available only for those who have the resources.

○ Not all public health centers, especially in rural India, provide abortion facilities.

○ Most unmarried women end up resorting to unsafe abortions in illegal clinics or at home.

Way Forward

● Though the laws governing the issues related to abortion are liberal than many of the western countries, there is need of involving all the stakeholder to plug the gaps in it.

● There is a need for absolute bodily autonomy for women and non-binary pregnant people.

● Bodily autonomy will empower women to make decisions for themselves.

Additional Information:

● The landmark Puttaswamy judgment discusses bodily privacy – the right over one’s body and “the freedom of being able to prevent others from violating one’s body.”

● Bodily autonomy and reproductive rights must be viewed from three lenses — legal, medical, and social.

National Family Health Survey – 5 (NFHS):Recent data under the survey have shown awareness of family planning and contraceptive methods to control unnecessary population growth –

Contraception is basically any technique or method used to prevent pregnancy.

● The most common methods of contraception available are sterilization, condom, pills, injectables, withdrawal, IUD/PPIUD, rhythm method, emergency contraception, and Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM), Standard days method, foam and jelly, etc.

● Female sterilization method is known as ‘Tubectomies’ and male sterilization method is known as ‘Vasectomies’.

● Female sterilization is performed 10 times more than males, as the NFHS data suggests that more than 1/3rd of the males are of the opinion that women should handle contraception.

Additionally: The survey shows that family planning among married women has increased from 66% in 2015-2016 to 76% in 2019-2021.

Source: The Indian Express

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