'Women must have control over their own bodies’- a quote by Rebecca Brown, but are we actually cohering to it? It has been almost 50 years of enacting the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 (MTP act) but the issue of pregnancy and aborting the same still remains a controversial topic to discuss and not just in our country but every part of the world. The MTP Act in spite of being quite flexible with its provisions did not succeed at eliminating the delusions. According to a report based on abortions that had taken place from 2000-2004, more than half of them i.e. 56% of them were unsafe and thus it contributed to 13% of the total maternal deaths. Needless to mention that we need more awareness regarding a mother’s right to choose abortion.
Abortion - The Concept
The taboo related to abortion can be backed up by the fact that it is explained under criminal law. However, that explains the intentional termination of any pregnancy. In the most common words, abortion means premature explosion of foetus taking place at the time of pregnancy. The premature termination of pregnancy before the birth is basically a technique of removing an embryo that’s in its developing state for the purpose of preventing its birth. There could be hundreds of reasons as to why someone goes for the termination of pregnancy. Majorly it is categorised into two -
Natural or spontaneous abortion.
Induced or artificial abortion.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 (MTP act) was incorporated to set down a set of legal guidelines governing the abortion cases in India. According to this act, termination of pregnancy is illegal unless and until it meets few conditions. These conditions make a termination of pregnancy legal if they are complied with.
Conditions under which a pregnancy can be terminated
What can take you by surprise is that aborting a pregnancy was not even legal in India until 1971 because that’s the year when the MTP Act came into action. However, the Section 3 of the act lays down a few conditions where such a termination can be considered as legal. These conditions are-
Risk to the mother- A woman’ health has to be given the top priority and adhering to that, if it appears that such a pregnancy can lead her to risking her life or causing grave injury to her, whether it be physical injury or injury to her mental health, then in that case, she is allowed to go for abortion.
Risk to the child born- The next priority is given to the child’s health. So if it appears to be a substantial risk to the child’s health, whether born or dead he/she could be gravely handicapped either due to physical or mental abnormalities, termination of pregnancy can be allowed.
Victim of rape- The most important and required provision was allowing termination of pregnancy for the ones who were victim of rape. Needless to say that the victim, whether a girl or a woman, did not plan nor did desire to get into a situation of unplanned motherhood and presumably, it could cause injury to her mental health. So the victim can be allowed to terminate the pregnancy on her own will.
Failure of contraceptives- Unplanned pregnancy can also be caused when the husband and wife were not willing to take up pregnancy but due to collapsing or failure of contraceptives, they land themselves into one. Even in this situation, the mother is allowed to terminate the pregnancy.
Whom to consult while terminating the pregnancy?
The question of whom to go to and where to go to is also answered by the MTP Act which suggests that in case if a woman wants to go for termination, she can to go to a registered doctor where the doctor needs to clarify the case and the need for abortion, and this can be done through 2 weeks of pregnancy.
In case if the woman has exceeded 12 weeks and reached up to 20 weeks of pregnancy then two doctors are required to be satisfied with the conditions of the pregnancy and also satisfied with the grounds provided have been fulfilled. There’s also a gestation period required before going into the process of termination but if it’s an urgent case, the doctor can skip it.
The most important and the foremost requirement is to acquire the consent of the woman who wants her pregnancy to be terminated. This is done in order to keep a check if the abortion is carried on her will and she’s not being forced. If she’s minor (less than 18 years) then her guardians have to give the consent.
The Supreme Court has said “A woman’s freedom of choice whether to bear a child or abort her pregnancy are areas which fall under the realm of her pregnancy”. The state has an absolute obligation to ensure a woman’s reproductive rights as a component of Article 21 and it’s time for every individual to adhere to it.