This article is written by Raajshree Vardhan.
“Abortion may be sinful or immoral, but it is not the function of the law to enforce the whole of morality. It is difficult to understand what religious or moral principle, what divine or human purpose, is served by compelling underprivileged women to undergo pregnancy for the full term and to bear unsought and frequently unwanted children or to risk sickness or death at the hands of incompetent and frequently lecherous and importunate abortionists. No doubt the fact that the price of maintaining the principle is paid almost exclusively by the poor has delayed its critical examination” – Norval Morris and Gordon Hawkins
Abortion, as we all know is the process of terminating a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the uterus. Unwanted pregnancies could be a result of lack of knowledge of contraceptives, failure of the contraceptive or unprotected sexual intercourse. There are various obstacles faced by a woman after conceiving a child which she cannot carry to term, this leaves her with no choice but to seek medical termination of pregnancy.
These obstacles include unavailability of proper medical resources, societal stigma and laws which are not in the favor of abortion it further causes a female’s health to deteriorate and it also traumatizes the woman mentally.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 (“MTP Act”) was amended in January, 2020 by the Union Cabinet. Women in India are now allowed to seek abortion as a part of their reproductive rights and gender justice. The latest amendment raises the limit of the termination of pregnancy from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. Rape survivors, minors, differently abled women and victims of incest can also seek abortion. Failure of contraceptives is also acknowledged in the MTP Act for seeking abortion.
It is important to end the pregnancy within the time span given by law because it is easier to perform an abortion using a surgical procedure or through drug induced labor. After the prescribed time frame, there is a higher risk of complications which might even lead to the woman’s death. Killing a fetus post 24 weeks of pregnancy is called feticide and it is a culpable offence.
As laid down by the law, a female can end undesirable pregnancy through the use of two methods. It is possible that she can end the pregnancy with the help of a medical procedure, which precisely expels the embryo from a female’s body. This procedure is done in the later phase of pregnancy, usually after seven weeks. The other choice is through the medical technique, which means ending the pregnancy using specific fetus removal pills and medications. This procedure is normally done in the early days of pregnancy.
There are conditions which females ought to consider before fetus removal in India. As per section 3(4) of MTP act, consent of a pregnant lady is required whether wedded or unmarried for fetus removal, assent isn’t required if the lady is a minor (under 18 years of age) or in the case where she is of unsound brain.
The courts have continuously recognized a woman’s consent to choose whether or not she will proceed with a pregnancy under Article 21 of the Constitution. The privilege of a woman to decide to be a mother or not has been considered as a component of her fundamental right to live with nobility alongside her entitlement to end a pregnancy. Assault survivors are not required to get a legal consent of their guardians for termination of their pregnancies. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012 states the legal age for consensual sex as 18. Thus, POCSO treats all women under the age of 18 as assault survivors.
Section 3(4)(a) clarifies that a guardian needs to agree to clinical termination of pregnancy for minors or women with mental disabilities. Courts have been approached to decipher this language where a minor and her parent or an adult woman and her husband differ on fetus removal i.e., where minors or adult women want to proceed with pregnancies and their husbands need them to end the pregnancy. In such cases, courts have reaffirmed the individual woman’s or minor’s desires to proceed with a pregnancy. Section 3(4)(b) states that a doctor must get a woman’s consent to end the pregnancy. Pre-natal sex determination is restricted under Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, it was enacted to stop the killing of girl child and to improvise the declining sex ratio.
Women in India should be aware of the various contraception methods available in the country to avoid the unwanted pregnancy and the mental pressure which comes along with it. Following are the various contraception methods used:
- IUD or intra uterine device is a long term but reversible contraceptive which is inserted in a female’s uterus. This prevents the fertilization process by being a barrier for the sperm to meet the egg.
- Oral contraceptive pill helps in delaying the ovulation process which prevents pregnancy.
- Barrier methods includes usage of condoms which collects the sperms and prevents it from entering a woman’s vagina.
- Contraceptive implant is a small plastic rod like object that is placed under the skin of upper arm, it releases progesterone in the bloodstream and helps in preventing fertilization.
- Contraceptive injection in which progesterone is injected in a female’s body, it releases estrogen and progesterone in the blood stream.
- Emergency contraceptive pill also known as “the morning after” pill is usually taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse.
- Contraceptive ring is a small and soft plastic ring placed inside the vagina. It releases estrogen and progesterone in the blood stream in doses.
- Sterilization it is a permanent procedure which blocks the fallopian tube surgically and helps in preventing fertilization in the fallopian tubes.
- Contraceptive diaphragm is a dome shaped object which is made of silicone and it is inserted in the vagina before sexual intercourse.
Abortion statistics in India
Practically 15.6 million early terminations of pregnancies are performed every year. Fetus removal rate is around 47% for every 1000 female. It additionally found that the majority of fetus removals (81%) were accomplished utilizing medication abortion (which, in India, is commonly known as medical methods of abortion, or MMA) that was acquired either from a clinic or another source. 14% of fetus removals were performed surgically in health facilities, and the remaining 5% of abortions were performed outside health facilities using other risky methods.
The study additionally assessed the rate of unintended pregnancy in India and expressed that out of the entire 48.1 million pregnancies in 2015, about half were unintended—which means they were not wanted in any manner. The assessed unintended pregnancy rate was 70 for every 1,000 women aged 15–49 in 2015. Almost three of every four abortions are accomplished using MMA drugs from pharmacists and informal vendors, rather than from health facilities. MMA is safe and successful when used as per World Health Organization’s rules. According to clinical examinations, an MMA regimen that blends misoprostol and mifepristone is 95–98% effective when used correctly and within a nine-week gestational limit.
It is very important to spread and gain knowledge about the various methods of terminating an unwanted pregnancy but it is also important to practice safe methods of sexual intercourse.
Women should be given proper care while undergoing an abortion because it causes a lot of mental and physical trauma to them. The stigma created by the society often results in mishaps. Therefore, it’s important to support each other. Women in India should be provided with contraceptive methods so that they can prevent unwanted pregnancies. Precaution is better than cure, but if required women should be assisted properly before they undergo an abortion. However, much more needs to be done in every sphere of the Indian society and Law which surrounds it. The belief system needs to undergo a sea change in order for the country to progress in the true sense. No society can truly progress until the women in it can enjoy respect, equality and parity in all aspects of life.
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