UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis | 12 May 2022

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What the article is about?

  • Talks about the analysis of the legal status of abortions in India. 

Syllabus: GS-II Government policies and interventions, Social Justice, Fundamental Right

Termination of pregnancy:

  • Under the general criminal law of the country, i.e. the IPC, voluntarily causing a woman with child to miscarry is an offence attracting a jail term of up to three years or fine or both, unless it was done in good faith where the purpose was to save the life of the pregnant woman.
    • A pregnant woman causing herself to miscarry is also an offender under this provision apart from the person causing the miscarriage, which in most cases would be a medical practitioner.
  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 is an exception to the IPC provisions above and sets out the rules — of when, who, where, why and by whom — for accessing an MTP.
    • However, the law does not recognise and/or acknowledge the right of a pregnant person to decide on the discontinuation of a pregnancy.
    • The law provides for a set of reasons based on which an MTP can be accessed:
      • the continuation of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or result in grave injury to her physical or mental health.
      • The law explains that if the pregnancy is as a result of rape or failure of contraceptive used by the pregnant woman or her partner to limit the number of children or to prevent a pregnancy,
      • the anguish caused by the continuation of such a pregnancy would be considered to be a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman.
      • The other reason for seeking an MTP is the substantial risk that if the child was born, it would suffer from any serious physical or mental abnormality. 


  • A pregnant person cannot ask for a termination of pregnancy without fitting in one of the reasons set out in the law
  • The other set of limitations that the law provides is the gestational age of the pregnancy.
    • The pregnancy can be terminated for any of the above reasons, on the opinion of a single registered medical practitioner up to 20 weeks of the gestational age.
    • From 20- 24 weeks, the opinion of two registered medical practitioners is required.
      • This extended gestational limit is applicable to certain categories of women which the rules define as either a survivor of sexual assault or rape or incest, minors, change of marital status during the ongoing pregnancy, etc.
      • Any decision for termination of pregnancy beyond 24 weeks gestational age, only on the ground of foetal abnormalities can be taken by a Medical Board as set up in each State, as per the law.

Way Ahead:

  • After the landmark right to privacy judgment of the Supreme Court of India in which it was held that the decision making by a pregnant person on whether to continue a pregnancy or not is part of such a person’s right to privacy as well and, therefore, the right to life
  • While access to abortion has been available under the legal regime in the country, there is a long road ahead before it is recognised as a right of a person having the capacity to become pregnant to decide, unconditionally, whether a pregnancy is to be continued or not. 

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