IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


21st July, 2022 Social Issues

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In News

  • Recently a 25 years old pregnant woman moved to the Supreme Court to allow abortion after the Delhi High Court declined her request last week.
  • She has challenged the Medical termination of pregnancy rules 2003, which allows only specific categories of women for termination of pregnancy between 20 and 24 weeks.


Abortions law in India

  • In the 1960s, the Union government constituted Shantilal Shah Committee to prepare a draft for the legalisation of abortion in India.
  • In 1971, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act was enacted to reduce maternal mortality due to unsafe abortions.
    • It set an upper limit of the gestation period to which a woman can seek a medical abortion to 20 weeks.
    • Abortion is to be performed only by doctors with specialisation in gynaecology or obstetrics.
  • Under section 312 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a person who “voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry” will be jailed for up to 3 years or fine or both.
    • The only exception from punishment is when it was done to save the life of the pregnant woman.
  • The MTP Act was amended in 2003 to allow the use of the abortion medicine misoprostol, to medically terminate a pregnancy for up to 7 weeks.
  • The MTP Act was again amended in 2021, it increased the upper limit of the gestation period to which a woman can seek a medical abortion to 24 weeks from 20 weeks permitted in the 1971 Act. But the new upper limit can only be applied in specific cases.
    • Abortion up to 20 weeks of gestational age can be done after the opinion of a single registered medical practitioner.
    • From 20 weeks up to 24 weeks, the opinion of two registered medical practitioners is required.
  • Under the 2021 amendment Act, medical termination of pregnancy is permitted if it is based on medical opinion and fulfil at least one of the following reasons;
    • If the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman.
    • If pregnancy results in any injury to the woman’s physical or mental health.
    • If f unborn child suffers from a serious physical or mental abnormality.
  • The pregnancy can be terminated up to 24 weeks of gestational age under any of these conditions;
    • If the woman is either a survivor of sexual assault or rape.
    • If she is a minor.
    • If her marital status has changed during the ongoing pregnancy (widowhood or divorce).
    • If she has major physical disabilities or is mentally ill.
    • If foetal malformation was incompatible with life or after birth, it would be seriously handicapped.
  • If the pregnancy has to be terminated beyond the 24-week gestational age, it can only be done on the grounds of foetal abnormalities and only after clearance from a four-member Medical Board.
  • In the K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India and other cases, the Supreme Court had held that the decision taken by a pregnant person related to pregnancy is part of her right to privacy under article 21.

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  • According to the Lancet study, 6 million abortions were conducted every year in India.
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s 2019-20 report indicates that there is a 70% shortage of obstetrician-gynaecologists in India.
  • As the law does not permit abortion at will, it pushes women to adopt unsafe, illegal and dangerous ways of abortions.
  • According to a study, every year more than 8,00,000 unsafe and illegal abortions are performed in India and many of them result in maternal mortality.