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Comprehensive Analysis on Abortion Rights


- Teesha Sharma and Shivani Zunjarrao


Abortion is one of the oldest practices since civil society was established. Earlier abortion was not considered as it was medically unsafe and resulted in the deaths of many women. Throughout history, this notion of care and thought for the safety of women’s health took a turn towards the negative notion of Abortion being unholy and immoral. The involvement of the church and other holy practices made abortion as the killing of another human and not giving its right to life. The Supreme Court of India recently ruled that all women in the nation, regardless of their marital status, are now able to access safe and legal abortion care up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Earlier, A woman could be sentenced to three years in prison and/or a fine under Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code if she had an abortion in India before the 1960s (IPC).

The Shantilal Shah Committee in the middle of the 1960s led by Dr. Shantilal Shah investigated the issue of abortions and determine whether India needed a law for the same.

A Medical Termination bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and got approved by Parliament in August 1971 based on the Shantilal Shah Committee's report.


India’s progress in abortion


In 1860, the Indian penal code (IPC) criminalised intentional abortion, with the only exception being when the mother's life was in danger. Since 1971, abortion has been legal in India. According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971[1], a pregnancy may be terminated with the approval of one registered medical practitioner if the pregnancy is less than 12 weeks long, and access to abortion if the pregnancy is more than 12 weeks long but less than 20 weeks long requires the approval of two registered medical practitioners. It only applies to married women. This act was passed at a time when India was making strides in medical science in terms of safer abortions.The MTP Act of 1971 was comprehensively updated in 2020, and the revised law, The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act, 2021[2], went into effect in September 2021. This Act increased the gestational limit for pregnancies that can be aborted on the advice of one registered medical practitioner from 12 weeks to 24 weeks, and the gestational limit for pregnancies that can be aborted with the approval of two registered medical practitioners from 20 weeks to 24 weeks. Unlike the previous act, this one also applies to unmarried women. With time, India's laws have become more progressive, and many restrictions have been lifted. Later laws took into account a woman's emotional and developmental needs and provided better and safer abortion facilities.


Comparative study of Indian Abortion laws with other countries


Despite being a "Developing" country, India has more progressive and favourable abortion regulations than "Developed" countries such as the United States, Ireland, Malta, and others. The U.S. Supreme Court found that prohibiting abortion in any state was unconstitutional in the Roe v. Wade[3] case, which is considered to be the court's most famous decision. On June 24, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the illustrious Roe v. Wade case. Another famous case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization[4], in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Constitution does not grant a right to abortion, overruled it. In Ireland, the Eighth Amendment referendum limited access to medical abortion to only 12 weeks. Only severe threats to the mother's health or life, or when two doctors concur that the fetus has a fatal defect, make abortions after 12 weeks legal. Women suffer because of this strict 12-week limit. Currently, abortion is prohibited in Malta under all circumstances, including rape, incest, and situations in which the woman's life or health is in danger. Medical practitioners who perform abortions risk being barred from practice if they are found guilty of the crime and sentenced to jail time.


Findings of world population report 2022


The annual State of World Population Report 2022[5] from the UN Population Fund was just published. Concerning the Report. Since 1978, it has been released every year.

The emerging issues in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights are brought to light, and the opportunities and challenges they present for global development are explored.


Major Findings :


Pregnancies that are not intended: According to the report, 121 million pregnancies worldwide every year are not intended, which is referred to as "a neglected crisis."

Abortion occurs in more than 60% of unintended pregnancies, and it is stated that 45% of abortions are unsafe, giving rise to 5% to 13% of maternal deaths.


Unsafe methods of contraception: Around 257 million women worldwide who want to avoid pregnancy do not use safe methods of contraception, and in 47 countries, about 40% of sexually active women do not use any methods of contraception.


Unsafe Abortions: A startling 45% of all abortions are unsafe.

Millions of women are admitted to hospitals each year due to unsafe abortions, which are the main cause of maternal death worldwide.


Conclusion


We must reframe the discussion by urging, our communities and our policymakers to give bodily autonomy top priority. We must ensure that women and girls are empowered to prevent these pregnancies in the first place rather than blaming and humiliating them for unintended pregnancy.

To fulfil the human rights obligation to provide accurate information about reproduction and contraception, the health and educational systems must be strengthened. Young people should be educated, given the tools to articulate their preferences and goals, and taught that they have a responsibility to respect their partners' choices.

Make sure contraceptives are available, affordable, and in a variety of forms that the people who use them find acceptable.

To better understand the causes and effects of unintended pregnancies, as well as to advance contraceptive technologies that allay women's concerns about side effects and increase the options available to men, research must be funded.

Justice systems frequently failed to hold sexual assault and coercion offenders accountable, leaving survivors to bear the stigma of both uninvited sex and the potential consequences of a pregnancy.

The Contribution should be towards a sustainable, equitable society and a just world where women have the freedom to make real informed decisions about their health, bodies, and futures.


Teesha Sharma and Shivani Zunjarrao are second year students at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai.


[1] https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/1593/1/A1971-34.pdf [2] https://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2021/226130.pdf [3] Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) [4] Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, No. 19-1392, 597 U.S. (2022) [5]https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/wpp2022_summary_of_results.pdf

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