In a significant step backwards for women’s rights in the U.S.,the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade judgement of 1973, which gave women in America the right to have an abortion before the foetus is viable outside the womb or before the 24-28 week mark.
Abortion rights, which have been available to women for over two generations — will now be determined by individual States.
- Abortion: It is defined as the termination of pregnancy by various methods, including medical surgery before the foetus is able to sustain independent life.
How did abortion laws come about in India?
- In the 1960s, in the wake of a high number of induced abortions taking place, the Union government ordered the constitution of the Shantilal Shah Committee to deliberate onthe legalisation of abortion in the country.
- The Medical Termination Of Pregnancy (MTP) Act was brought into force in 1971. This law is an exception to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provisions of 312 and 313 and sets out the rules of how and when a medical abortion can be carried out.
Confidentiality: The “name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed”, except to a person authorized in any law that is currently in force according to 2021 law.
- The new law will contribute towards ending preventable maternal mortality to help meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3.1, 3.7 and 5.6
- SDG 3.1 pertains to reducing maternal mortality ratio whereas SDGs 3.7 and 5.6 pertain to universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Amendments will increase the ambit and access of women to safe abortion services and will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy.
- Different opinions on Termination: One opinion is that terminating a pregnancy is the choice of the pregnant woman and a part of her reproductive rights while the other is that the state has an obligation to protect life, and hence should provide for the protection of the foetus.
- The Act allows abortion after 24 weeks only in cases where a Medical Board diagnoses substantial foetal abnormalities. This implies that for a case requiring abortion due to rape, that exceeds 24-weeks, the only recourse remains through a Writ Petition.
- The Act require abortion to be performed only by doctors with specialisation in gynaecology or obstetrics but there is a 75% shortage of such doctors in community health centers in rural areas.
Judicial interventions in cases of abortions:
Justice K.S.Puttaswamy v. Union of India and others: The Supreme Court had held that the decision 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 and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Calcutta High Court: It allowed a 37 year old woman, who was 34 weeks into her pregnancy, to get a medical abortion as the foetus was diagnosed with an incurable spinal condition. This judgment allowed abortion for the furthest gestation in the country so far.
- The government needs to ensure that all norms and standardised protocols in clinical practice to facilitate abortions are followed in health care institutions across the country.
- Along with that, the question of abortion needs to be decided on the basis of human rights, the principles of solid science, and in step with advancements in technology.
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