India is a land of culture, religion, beliefs and rituals. Every natural phenomenon taking
place is embedded with certain ritual and custom, associated with some belief. So is the case
with the birth of a child. A woman becoming pregnant at a reasonable time after marriage
becomes an auspicious moment for her, which goes on to become a glorifying one after she
gives birth to a child. The arrival of a child becomes a blessing for the entire family.
However, the predominant ambience of the patriarchal society seldom keeps this as an auspicious one for the woman. This is because the birth of a child is not only a new lease of happiness, a sense of pride gets associated with it. This refers to the unreasonable discrimination between a boy and a girl, that imposes a demand on the pregnant woman to deliver a boy child.
This boy child is going to become the successor of the property and assets of his ancestors. In cases when the family members get to know about the gender of the child much before it is born, they decide to kill the foetus and end it even before it can begin its life-giving a preliminary concept of abortion.
With the advent of society, there have been many other reasons that have led a woman to destroy a life in the way of abortion. The deformities in the foetus, often leads the woman to abortion to prevent the child from any sort of suffering if born. A major factor can be the increasing levels of rape. The act itself, ends the life of the woman in an implied manner. The situation gets worsened when she gets pregnant out of forceful consummation.
There are other reasons as well. Studies have been conducted across the world about determining the reasons that lead a woman to undergo abortion. It has been found that some of them have multiple reasons to give. Some of them include: partner related reasons, influences from family and friends, and even when they are not emotionally prepared.
However, the list of these reasons is not exhaustive. There are a lot of reasons owing to circumstances which lead to abortion. The unfortunate thing is that there are no appropriate forums where a woman can share her feelings about her decision to abort or her mental condition post action. As stated earlier, a child in the family is considered to be a gift of God. Therefore, an initiative to destroy the life in the mother's womb is a sin and a social taboo altogether.
This has led the activity of abortion a hidden affair, leading to unsafe abortions. Thanks to modernization in the post-colonial era, the right of a woman to decide the fate of the foetus in her womb is recognized as a right. This has reduced the number of maternity deaths due to unsafe abortions. The recognition of the right of women to take their own decision of keeping a life has created a step towards gender equality in the long run.
However, there is a long way to go. The prevailing patriarchal society has not been able to accept the right being given to women. The legalization of abortion in India has not been able to solve the problem of gender biasness yet. This calls for a look into the legal aspect of abortion (laws related to abortion), the present scenario of it and ways to improve it so that it will be able to cater to the needs of those helpless women, who decide to end a life under societal pressure and social stigmas.
However, this opinion needs to be in good faith. In case of length of pregnancy being 12 weeks, the opinion of one registered practitioner is required. In case of length of pregnancy exceeding 20 weeks, opinion of two registered medical practitioners is necessary. Therefore, termination of pregnancy exceeding a period of more than 20 weeks requires the direction of a High Court. The Court, in turn would give the direction based on the recommendations from the medical board.
It is to be noted that the terms "grave injury to physical and mental health" are subject to interpretation.
Section 4 provides for the place where the pregnancy can be terminated. It states that the pregnancy can be terminated in a hospital established or maintained by the Government, or any other place approved by the Government or a District level Committee by the Government for the purposes of the Act. Section 5: Section 5 denotes the cases where Section 3 and 4 will not apply. It refers to cases where a registered medical practitioner gives his opinion in good faith that the termination is necessary to save the life of a woman.
The law at present:
The law is currently the only legislation governing induced abortion in India. The objective was to curb maternity deaths to a great extent. However, ever since it was passed, there has been unrest all over as to giving the right of opinion to the registered medical practitioner. Ever since its enactment, thirty petitions have been submitted to the Supreme Courts and High Courts for seeking termination of pregnancy directions.
It was on September 2019 that the Ministry of health and family Welfare submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court of India, denying the absoluteness of a woman's right to abort. The affidavit was filed in response to a petition in 2009 by Dr. Nikhil Datar. It sought to liberalize the respective provisions in respect to abortion in India.
Recent studies have shown that even after more than four decades of passing the MTP Act, maternity deaths in India due to unsafe abortions amount to 9 to 20%. The Lancet Global Health, in its study conducted recently, states that almost 22% of 15 million abortions take place in private hospitals or public healthcare facility, rest are still outside healthcare facilities.
Conclusion: Way Towards A Better Future
It is not easy for a woman to take the decision of abortion. The good news of arrival of a new member in the family is not only a joyous occasion for the entire family, it causes a blend of emotions in the would-be mother as well. However, these emotions are seldom taken under consideration, with the woman being left all alone. It is, in a general sense, the mother who is the best one to take decisions for her child and no one knows better than her about the child's future.
Therefore, getting known of the fact that her child will not be able to live a normal life after born, it becomes difficult for the mother to digest it. After all, the physical pain suffered for nine months, it is not possible for the mother to bear the suffering of the person who will be there in this world with any sort of disability, thereby getting deprived of those which a "healthy" child gets. This causes a feeling of anguish and guilt on the part of the mother at times, when she starts to feel as if she is responsible for all such sufferings.
She gets worried as to who will look after her child after her, because a "differentially abled" person is generally given a lip service of sympathy throughout the world. This is from the part of the mother. In cases where there is a family pressure to give birth to a child, the family members seldom think of the mother's condition and sway themselves in the joy of inviting their new family member. This often leads to the death of the mother, if she had a complication from the time of her pregnancy.
Mention should also be made of unintended pregnancies, which fall under an urgent need of termination to avoid social isolation. These circumstances often lead to termination of pregnancy in a hidden manner, leading to unsafe abortions. It is needless to say that unsafe abortions are becoming a prime cause of maternity deaths nationwide.
It was with the Roe v. Wade case that the idea of legalizing induced abortions was established 6 . Our country, battling with the social stigmas, took an initiative to legalize induced abortion, with the MTP Act still the primary one to be looked at when it comes to giving orders for carrying out the process of abortion. It has also been subject to several amendments and other supplementary regulations throughout the years.
Thus, it is evident that the Government has taken an initiative to save the woman population by reducing maternity deaths through unsafe abortions. Unfortunately, the current situation mentioned above imply that there is still a long way to go. Women must be given appropriate forum to share their feelings and their emotions that worked while they took the decision to abort their foetus.
Their views should be taken care of and given as much respect as possible, so that they get an opportunity to live with dignity and provide scope for the next generation as well to enjoy their lives in the true sense of the word. It is true that a mother's feelings and emotions associated with her child can not be interpreted with a legal framework, howsoever effective it becomes.
Therefore, cases relating to life and death of the present as well as the future should be dealt with a humanitarian approach as the first priority. Above all, it should be the mindset of the people that needs to be liberal to an extent of giving the right to live with dignity to a woman. A lion's share of the responsibility of perpetuating the human race
Roe v. Wade; 410 U.S. 113 (1973)
Falls on the woman. Therefore, it is the society who should be responsible enough to pay due respect to her, so that she lives and paves way for the next generation to live their lives in the true sense of the word.
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Mehuli Mishra
Authentication No: AP310083243741-10-0423
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