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Licit Abortion

In December 2020, a country of conservative Roman Catholics, paved its way for abortion rights. Alas! With the hand of God, Argentina divorced its traditional outlook in Latin America and legalized abortion. The first hue and cry was heard in 2015, after an abominable killing of two young girls aged about 14 and 16 years.

Gradually it grew into a national crusade under the banner of Ni Una Menos or not one woman fewer. According to the data collected by Centre for Reproductive Rights, ( roughly over two dozen of countries have a strict ban on abortion rights. This not only amounts to grievous transgression of female rights but also their reproductive rights.

What is legal abortion?

Legal abortion means termination of pregnancy in such a fashion, as not to criminalize it. In India it is covered under The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. Although the statute does not use the nomenclature abortion, it spells out the term as medical termination of pregnancy.

In Lingua Franca, abortion and miscarriage are used interchangeably, but in brass tracks both the words have quite a different meaning. A miscarriage is usually a natural and offhand termination of pregnancy. The body expels the foetus without any external medication or procedure of surgery. Whereas in abortion, the procedure is an elective one, it is the termination of undesired pregnancy. However the symptoms of miscarriage and termination of pregnancy with pills are of similar nature.

What is the current stance of India?

It was due to the endearing efforts of the Shah Committee which was appointed by the government in 1964 that a holistic socio-cultural, legal and medical review on abortion was carried out and it was recommended to legalize abortion in order to prevent deterioration of women's health and life.

Prior to the amendment of 2020 of The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, the drive after a women's decision to terminate the pregnancy was never by choice but only circumstantial which was based upon only these four conditions:
  1. if the continuation of pregnancy endangered the life of the mother by posing any risk to her health both mentally or physically.
  2. If the foetus has any severe abnormalities
  3. if the woman conceives due to the failure of contraceptive pill, but this exemption was only confined to married women.
  4. if the women became pregnant after a sexual assault or rape.
After the 2020 amendment, section 3 of The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 broadens the spectrum for termination of pregnancy reaffirming gender justice and reproductive rights. Section 3 of the act states that a pregnancy may be terminated on the advice of a single registered medical practitioner where the gestation period does not exceed twelve weeks or where the length of the pregnancy exceeds twelve weeks but does not exceeds twenty weeks.

Whereas the previous provisions of the act required the advice of two registered medical practitioners in case of pregnancy which exceeds twelve weeks but does not exceeds twenty weeks.

Rest of the provisions which determine the situations in which a women may terminate her pregnancy are more or less the same as to the previous provisions which have been mentioned earlier in the article. But where any pregnancy occurs as a result of failure of any device or method used by any married woman or her husband for the purpose of limiting the number of children, the anguish caused by such unwanted pregnancy may be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman. This stipulation has been relaxed by 2020 amendment. It also now includes unmarried women.

After the 2020 amendment of The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, the upper limit has been increased for medical termination of pregnancy from twenty weeks to twenty four weeks. But this does not cover all circumstances in which the pregnancy can be terminated. It is only applies to few cases and after receiving the advice of two registered medical practitioners. Prior to the amendment 2020, in those cases where the period of conception was above twenty four weeks, it was not allowed to terminate the pregnancy.

There have been umpteen cases where the hon'ble courts have denied the victims of rape and sexual assault to terminate their pregnancy. But after the amendment, where the gestation period has passed beyond twenty four week, on the advice of the medical board, where the foetus is suffering from substantial abnormalities, permission may be granted. Although this does not provides a great respite, but something is better than nothing.

Had India not taken timely measures to develop its laws for the welfare of the state and its women, even we would have been in godawful situation. Through the amendment 2020 of The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, we stand in better position as compared to various highly developed nations such as USA, where certain states like Alabama observe a strict and a complete ban on abortion, giving a human face to the statute and maintaining maternal morality.

It is a positive step, not only to maintain the health of a woman but also have an assured check on the rise of population. Since Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act is a central piece of legislation, it is applicable pan India. It would not be out of place to mention that such amendment of the act would act as a severe blow to cotton industry (kind of informal industry) which establishes places for unsafe abortion services resulting in death of the mother.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Fatima Kabir
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