Abortion has been, and continues to remain, one of the most heated debates in the world. The trend of legalising abortions started in 1920 with Vladimir Lenin legalising abortion in the Soviet Union bringing, as of 2012, almost 75% of the world population to have the “Right to Abortion”. India was a pioneer in introducing legalized abortions by enacting the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP Act) for the same. Despite granting a statutory right to the women to exercise their autonomy with regards to abortion, 13% of the maternal deaths in India are caused due to the adoption of unsafe means for abortion and approximately 90% of the abortions are performed under potentially unsafe conditions.
Globally, from the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and Pressure Groups to the Political parties, the issue of abortion has split everyone into two, those taking Pro-Choice stand arıd those taking Pro-Life stand. The opponents of legalisation of abortion maintain that the foetus is a life in itself and has the basic human right to survive. The Pro-Life position backs the argument regarding the sanctity of life and how abortion leads to the violation of the right to life. On the other hand, the Pro-Choice position thrives on the theory of liberalism which says that the individual is the rightful possessor of his or her bodily capacities. Its proponents argue that compelling women to bear unwanted children is a form of ethical despotism and that the policy must be directed towards protecting a woman’s ability to control her own body.
Though the intention of the MTP Act was to flip over the Indian policy from a Pro-Life view to a Pro-Choice one, women rarely have their own say inter-generational differences, mobility, economic means, and various socio- cultural factors play an important role in a woman’s decision regarding abortion. On the other hand, when the state adopts a Pro-Life policy, women have no other means but to resort to unsafe and illegal means of abortion as they give up to the social stigma of giving birth to a baby girl, carrying a baby without marriage etc. Introduced by Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the act amends Section 3 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, to extend the upper limit for medical termination of pregnancy to 24 weeks, from the present stipulation of 20 weeks, for certain categories of women which will be defined in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules.
The MTP laws are supported by the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill which is aimed at bringing about modern technological changes in the system. The MTP act clearly says a big no to commercial surrogacy in India while it is allowed is various other part of the world. This ensures that there is lesser trafficking of women for producing children.
The overall process of getting an abortion has been made a tad bit easier while keeping in view that it is not done arbitrarily. Only one doctor’s advice is required up until 20 weeks of pregnancy and it from 20-24 week, two doctors are to be consulted for abortion. The pregnancy can be terminated during any period of the pregnancy if there is a certain risk to the mother confirmed by one doctor. In this scenario, a doctor refers to registered medical practitioner with experience/training in gynaecology or obstetrics.
While all these acts are good for any medical emergencies during pregnancy, if a doctor deems that the pregnancy does not cause any complications, then the woman more or less has no choice after the 12 week time period. The act allows certain categories of women to terminate their pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks. The central government will notify these categories. It may be argued that the categories of women who may terminate a pregnancy between 20 and 24 weeks should be specified by Parliament and not delegated to the government.
A few shortcomings of the act that have to be addressed further are:
- What cases can the medical board set up decide upon?
- What is the time-frame for decision by the medical board?
- Does this law apply to transgender persons?
- What is to be done when there is a lack of appropriate medical support such as qualified staff?
All such cases still cause confusion after the new amendment and it is important that the government address these issues in future amendments. Considering the latest amendment however, in my opinion, this amendment is much needed one in terms of responding to the changes coming about in the society. By giving women more choices up to a certain extended amount of time, there is a balance between the Pro-life and Pro-Choice view.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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