Expert Speak

Abortion laws in India: Our experts tell you everything

Abortion laws in India are far more progressive than that of Alabama. We give you a lowdown on the social and legal perspectives of the law
Abortion laws in India are progressive

While in Alabama a newly introduced bill prohibits abortion of the foetus six weeks into the pregnancy, abortion laws in India allow the procedure till 20 weeks of pregnancy.

After the new abortion laws in Alabama, USA, were announced recently, people started protesting all over the world . Although abortion remains legal in the state but there will be stringent regulations on who can access it and who cannot. Also if the new law is implemented legal actions can be taken against doctors who perform the abortion. So in other words it prohibits abortion in every possible way and is the most regressive law passed in recent times.

Washington Post writes:

The bill prohibits abortion in almost every circumstance and is considered the most restrictive abortion law in the country. The legislation makes exceptions only for the health of the mother and for fetuses with “fatal anomalies” that make them unlikely to survive outside the womb. Rape and incest are not exceptions to Alabama’s ban.

India on the contrary takes into account the suffering of a rape survivor and allows legal abortion. We talk to experts and find out about the legal and social implications of the abortion laws in India.

The laws on medical termination of pregnancy

We asked lawyer NANDISH THACKAR our questions and he answered:

  • Women under what circumstances can undergo an abortion in India?

As per the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, more specifically Section 3 of the act is suggestive of the fact that a pregnancy can be terminated essentially under 2 circumstances:

  1. When a medical practitioner forms an opinion that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to physical or mental health, or
  2. There is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

For example, if a woman is a victim of rape and a child is a result of the same, then the anguish caused by pregnancy shall be presumed to constitute a grave injury to physical and mental health of awoman.

  • Why a court intervention is needed after 20 weeks of pregnancy?

As per the section 3 of the Medical Termination of the Pregnancy Act, 1971, more particularly section 3(2) of the Act, it is prescribed that where the term of Pregnancy is not exceeding twelve weeks, an opinion of one Medical Practitioner has to be taken whether the woman falls under the above 2 categories and if the term of Pregnancy is more than 12 weeks and not exceeding 20 weeks then an opinion of 2 medical practitioners are to be taken so as to satisfy the above criteria.

However, as the act only permits Termination of Pregnancy up to 20 weeks, any termination beyond that has to be done with the permission of the Court and the Court have to consider each and every aspects i.e. the possibility in terms of medical science, the consequences to the health of a woman etc and if everything falls in place and the experts opine that it is possible, then the Courts can permit the same.

Recently the Madhya Pradesh High court was pleased to suggest the period to be extended till 24 weeks and considering the same, the Parliament has also passed a bill to that effect.

Various High Courts like Madhya Pradesh, Bombay as well as Gujarat have considered such requests beyond 20 weeks considering all the essential factors. One such example where a 26-weeks foetus was permitted to be terminated by the Bombay High Court was in the case of Priti Mahendra Singh Rawal Vs. Union of India and Ors, passed in Writ Petition No. 11940/2017. In the said case, the Bombay High Court was pleased to constitute a committee of Medical Experts and their opinion was sought and after considering the opinion, the Hon’ble High Court permitted the Termination of Pregnancy under the supervision of the Medical Board.

Abortion laws in India allow abortion till 20 weeks of pregnancy
Abortion laws in India allow termination of pregnancy till 20 weeks

Private abortion clinics for abortion in India

Expert SNIGDHA MISHRA answers:

  • A number of private abortion clinics exist in India. Is it good or bad?

India is a medical tourism hub. This means that there are world class medical facilities available. Having said that, from small cities, to semi urban and urban areas there are multiple small private clinics. While not all are shady, some may be. They do give decent and affordable medical care. This also makes medical care more accessible.

It’s often noted that these private clinics act as abortion clinics. In India with female infanticide happening every day, such clinics prove to be safe havens for such evil.

They may be a boon to unwanted pregnancies, teenage pregnancies or women, married or otherwise, who don’t wish to inform their families about getting an abortion. It’s every woman’s right to chose if they wish to give birth.

As long as medical care is efficient it doesn’t matter where you are getting an abortion done.

  • Sometimes women in India are forced to go through abortion after illegal determination of the sex of the foetus. What is your opinion on this?

It is unlawful and people who do it must be jailed. It’s hardcore patriarchy that enables this, apart from obvious loopholes in our medico legal system. Since both determination of sex of the foetus and infanticide are crimes, there’s no doubt that all parties involved must be taken to task. But more important than this is to understand and change the mindset that enables such acts.

On the abortion procedure

Dr. SHARMILA MAJUMDER tells us:

  • What is the abortion pill? 

A medical abortion, also known as medication abortion, is a type of non-surgical abortion in which medication is used to bring about abortion. An oral preparation for medical abortion is commonly referred to as an abortion pill. Abortion pill is the common name for using two different medicines to end a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol.

First, you take a pill called mifepristone. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone, stopping the pregnancy from growing.

Then you take the second medicine, misoprostol, either right away or up to 48 hours later. This medicine causes cramping and bleeding to empty your uterus. It’s kind of like having a really heavy, crampy period, and the process is very similar to an early miscarriage.

  • How effective is the abortion pill?

For people who are 8 weeks pregnant or less, it works about 94-98 out of 100 times.

For people who are 8-9 weeks pregnant, it works about 94-96 out of 100 times.

For people who are 9-10 weeks pregnant, it works about 91-93 out of 100 times.

You usually can get a medication abortion up to 70 days (10 weeks) after the first day of your last period.

What are the possible complications of oral medication for abortion?

Some possible complications of the oral medications are the abortion pills don’t work and the pregnancy doesn’t end some of the pregnancy tissue is left in your uterus blood clots in your uterus bleeding too much or too long leading to infections, or allergic reaction to one of the medicines.

  • What are the costs of abortion?

Typically, an abortion that involves medicines costs about Rs 5000 in India so it might cost anywhere from Rs 5000 to Rs 30,000 depending on case to case.

Abortion laws in India help rape survivors and people with unwanted pregnancies
Abortion laws in India are a boon to rape survivors

Abortion laws in India are progressive

PRACHI VAISH answers:

  • Is the progressive abortion law a major relief to rape survivors?

When a woman is raped, it leaves life-long scars on her psyche which takes years to heal. If she gets pregnant in the process, she not only has to come to terms with her own rape, she also has to carry the seed of her tormentor inside her and not allowing her to abort it is forcing her to live with a reminder of her rape for life.

It is also extremely unfair to the foetus if he becomes a baby and is born because he/she will always be a victim and product of a crime.

Therefore, yes, the progressive abortion law is a sigh of relief to both rape victims and the unsuspecting unborn children of rape who may be subject to a life of further trauma for no fault of their own.

Abortion laws in India make people responsible

Life Coach JOIE BOSE tells us why:

  • Are young couples and teenagers misusing the abortion laws in India?

Abolishing abortion is the most regressive step that can ever be taken and highly unacceptable at this phase of human development. This is as blatant as I can get and there is no better way of putting this.

At one level this shows how the society remains innately anti-sexuality. Let us admit it a baby is not a gift from God but a result of “a heated night of passion”. Well, night or day or morning! No protection is 100% safe. And having sexual desires is something that has been programmed into our genetic code. It is in its peak amongst younger people when compared to the old but it’s something no one can deny of ever having felt. Science has enough proof to show that humans are not essentially monogamous. Keeping all these things in mind if by chance a woman gets pregnant, an abortion is the most responsible action that can be taken. Why should she allow her body to “suffer” pregnancy? Why should a child be a “burden” for a man where he is unable to be a proud father? Pregnancy must be cherished by both parents of the child, if not then abortion is the only way. No child ever deserves unloving parents. And no man or woman should be forced into raising a child. The law makers should remember that they are not doing anything to help raise the child. Nor are they doing anything to help the single mother/single father.

As a life coach, I have found that the most depressed and most under confident people are those who are unappreciated by their family. Being an unwanted child causes severe depression. If a parent can’t take responsibility of a child to ensure the child’s emotional nourishment, they should never bring the child into this world. Most sad are people who feel unloved.

I am presently helping a girl who had undergone abortion few years ago. She constantly thinks about ‘what if’. She is single. She is working. I show her the other side of the coin. The abortion was the best decision she could have taken for presently the man she was with then, is not with her now. Young people are actually taking responsibility for their actions, when they choose abortion.

If you look at it, banning abortion is another way to subjugate the woman for nurturing the baby becomes her responsibility as the child’s ‘natural guardian’. A woman must be given the option to choose motherhood and if the state bans abortion, they must take the onus of providing for the child in every way possible.

The law makers are mostly still men. The law makers are mostly still old. The abortion law affects the law makers least. It just becomes an agent of controlling them who are less powerful than them.

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