Ten Pointers Guide to Women’s Right to Abortion or Termination of Pregnancy Law in India-

1.Abortion or termination of pregnancy is legal, permitted and practiced in India. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy ( MTP) Act, 1971 legalizes Abortion or termination of pregnancy. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act is amended by the MTP ( Amendment) Act 2014.

2.The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

3.Right to seek an abortion is an essential reproductive health right  for woman in India both at national and international level.The right to reproductive health of mother is held as one of the  inalienable survival rights of women that form part of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as the right of women to seek abortion is reproductive choices which is a dimension of  privacy ,`personal liberty’ under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.  [  Suchita Srivastava & Anr vs Chandigarh Administration ( 2009)  , Bhupinder Kumar vs Angrej Singh (2009).] Right to seek an abortion is a right of women under international human right convention, The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (UNCEDAW) 1979 recommends states parties to ensure appropriate services in connection with pregnancy including allowing women right to seek abortion, and promote safe motherhood services. India has ratified UNCEDAW as on  9 July 1993 hence India has treaty obligation to give effect to the same.

4.Termination of pregnancy is defined to include procedure to terminate pregnancy by using medical or surgical methods.

5.The MTP ( Amendment) Act 2014  grants every Indian women a conditional and limited right to seek abortion subject to the specified time periods and other prescribed conditions in the statute ( MTP Act)  but this is not absolute right.

6.The MTP ( Amendment) Act 2014  states that a pregnancy upto 12 weeks may be terminated on the request of the pregnant women by registered health care provider. Termination of pregnancy upto 12 weeks is permissible on “request of woman”, this allows single, unmarried  women, live in women partner to avail means to safe termination of pregnancy on her own accord subject to prescribed condition in the bill.  This is a preventive checks against women resorting to unsafe, quacks to terminate the same.  Further pregnancy may be terminated upto 20 weeks following medical opinion of a registered health care provider, here the number of qualifying opinion of medical practitioners is reduced to “one registered health care provider, whereas under the earlier MTP Act 1971 provided for two medical practitioners. Subsequently termination of pregnancy upto 24 weeks may be terminated on the ground of grave injury physical or mental health of pregnant woman, physical or mental abnormalities, substantial risk to the child including  physical or mental abnormalities, serous handicap and in case of pregnancy caused by rape, failure of family planning devices to limit the number of children, substantial foetal abnormalities.

Several recent case law instances where abortion is permitted beyond twenty to twenty four weeks, in Mrs. X & Others Vs. Union of India & ors.  [2017], the Supreme Court (SC) allowed a Mumbai based woman to terminate 21 weeks pregnancy on the ground  of foetal abnormality following absence of kidney in the same. In Meera Santosh Pal others Vs. Union of India & ors. [2017 ], the SC permitted termination of 24-week pregnancy as the foetus was diagnosed with anencephaly bearing imminent risk to life. In Ms. X vs Union of India & Ors. [2016] SC allowed a rape victim to terminate  24 week pregnancy.  Hence this extended time limit of 24 weeks better protects the interest of pregnant woman. However there is an exception to this rule of limitation of time period when termination of pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of pregnant women.

7.Termination of pregnancy may be performed by the registered health care provider implies medical practitioner qualified under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and whose name has been entered in a State Medical Register for the same. The registered health care provider  includes ayurved acharyas, homoeopaths, unani, siddha, homeopathy, auxiliary nurse, mid wifery” in addition to gynaecologist  and obstetricians. This offers greater accessibility and choice of reproductive health care services to women in India.

  1. Abortion or Termination of pregnancy may be conducted at a hospital established or maintained by Government or a place approved by Government for the same. This ensures appropriate, safe maternal health care services to women in India.
  2. The MTP (Amendment) Act 2014 directs the health care provider to not reveal the name and other particulars of women subject to abortion, thereby ensuring protection of privacy of women subject to abortion.
  3. Termination of pregnancy by person other than not registered health care provider or in a place other than hospital established or maintained by Government is offences punishable with two years which may extend to seven years and fine.

 

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