What the article is about?
- Talks about the existing concerns with abortion in India and gives a way ahead.
Syllabus: GS-II Health, Rights of individual
India and abortion:
- According to the WHO, 6 out of 10 of all unintended pregnancies end in induced abortion.
- Around 45% of all abortions are unsafe, almost all of which (97%) take place in developing countries.
- As per a nationally representative study published in PLOS One journal in 2014, abortions account for 10% of maternal deaths in India.
- The recent round of the NFHS 2019-2021, shows that 3% of all pregnancies in India result in abortion. More than half (53%) of abortions in India are performed in the private sector, whereas only 20% are performed in the public sector — partly because public facilities often lack abortion services.
- More than a quarter of abortions (27%) are performed by the woman herself at home.
- In another a fact-ﬁnding study published in The Lancet in 2018, 73% of all abortions in India in 2015 were medication abortions, and even though these may have been safe — many of these are illegal as per the MTP Act, if they occur without the approval of a registered medical practitioner.
- Another 5% of all abortions were outside of health facilities with methods other than medication abortion.
- These risky abortions are performed by untrained people under unhygienic conditions using damaging methods such as insertion of objects, ingestion of various substances, abdominal pressure, etc.
- Recent study:- sex-selective abortions in India could lead to 6.8 million fewer girls being born between 2017 to 2030.
- The MTP Act, ﬁrst enacted in 1971 and then amended in 2021, certainly makes ‘medical termination of pregnancy’ legal in India under speciﬁc conditions. This premise points to a lack of choice and bodily autonomy of women and rests the decision of abortion solely on the doctor’s opinion. The MTP Act also only mentions ‘pregnant woman’, thus failing to recognise that transgender persons and others who do not identify as women can be- come pregnant.
- Other concerns:
- They may not even be aware that abortion is legal or know where to obtain one safely;
- They need the approval of medical professionals even in the ﬁrst few weeks of the pregnancy;
- unmarried and transgender people continue to face stigma and can be turned away from health facilities, forcing them to resort to unsafe care;
- fourth, mandatory reporting requirements under the (POCSO), 2011 law against child sexual oﬀences, impact privacy and hinder access of adolescents to safe abortion services;
- many are still coerced into agreeing to a permanent or long-term contraceptive method as a prerequisite for getting abortion services;
- health-care providers may impose their own morality by insisting on ‘husbands’ or ‘parental’ consent for abortion
- The mushrooming of unregulated ultrasound clinics in India continues to facilitate the illegal practice of sex determination, resulting in unsafe abortions and female foeticide.
- There is an urgent need in our country to shift the discourse on abortions from just being a family planning and maternal health issue to one of a sexual health and reproductive rights issue.