As per the U.N report of 2014, at least 71 countries allow abortion “to preserve a woman’s physical or mental health”. Moreover, 50 countries permitted abortion “to save a woman’s life”.
In India, Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 0f 1971 bars abortion if the foetus has crossed the 20-week mark. An exception to law is made if a registered medical practitioner certifies to a court that the continued pregnancy is life-threatening for the mother or the baby.
Recently on 3rd July 2017, Supreme Court allowed a woman to abort her over 20-week old foetus with severe abnormalities. She presented a report by paediatric pulmonologist, her foetus suffered from a severe form of cardiac impairment called Pulmonary Atresia, which said that there was a high possibility of permanent brain damage.
A petition submitted stated that of the 26 million births that occur in India every year, approximately 2-3 percent of the foetuses had severe congenital or chromosomal abnormalities. Many suffered Intrauterine Foetal Death (IUFD). It is possible to detect certain abnormalities before 20 weeks, but some could be detected only after that period.
On June 24,2017 the court wanted to stretch the law on abortion that would allow termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks if the foetus suffered from severe abnormalities.
Abortion in India is legal only up to twenty weeks of pregnancy under specific conditions and situations, which are broadly defined as:
- continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury of physical or mental health, or
- there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.
Ipas is a global non-profit organization that works around the world to eliminate deaths and injuries from unsafe abortion and increase women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, reported in 2013 that unsafe abortions killed one woman for every two hours in India (approximately 4,000 deaths a year), according to estimates and calculations correlating data on maternal mortality ratio and Sample Registration System (SRS) data.
Pre-natal diagnostic techniques like Medical Ultrasonography are capable of determining the sex of the fetus. In many parts of India, daughters are not preferred and hence sex-selective abortion is commonly practised, a form of Gendercide. According to The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques(Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Amendment Act, 2002 the following are cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offences:
- Conducting or associating or helping to conduct Pre-Natal Diagnostic tests for determining the sex of the foetus.
- Sex selection on a woman or a man or both on any tissue, embryo, conceptus fluid or gametes derived from either or both of them
- Advertisement or communication in any form in print, by electronic media or internet by units, medical professionals or companies on the availability of sex determination and sex selection in the form of services, medicines, or any kind of techniques.
Providers are punishable by three years imprisonment and a Rs. 10,000 fine (five years imprisonment and a Rs. 50,000 fine for subsequent offence); those who seek aid are punishable with a term that may extend to three years and a fine that may extend to Rs 50,000 for the first offence and for any subsequent offence with imprisonment which may extend to five years and with fine which may increase to Rs. 100,000.
Note: Please refer http://tcw.nic.in/Acts/MTP-Act-1971.pdf for detailed and accurate information for the above post.
Sources: The Hindu News Paper July 4, 2017 and Wikipedia-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_India