Is India really ahead of the West in terms of reproductive rights? Contrary to the grandstanding since the overturning of the landmark Roe V. Wade judgment, the truth is, no.
What are the challenges associated with MTP Act?
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 has the following issues:
- It has been criticised for not taking a rights-based approach. It doesn’t give the pregnant person complete autonomy in ending the pregnancy. For example, a pregnancy can be terminated on certain conditions which include:- (a) Grave danger to the physical/mental health of the pregnant woman; (b) foetal abnormalities; (c) rape/coercion; and (d) contraceptive failure.
- A woman’s right to choose to end the pregnancy even in the first few weeks is still not recognised in India.
- Additionally, it uses the word “woman”, thereby leaving out pregnant transgender and non-binary persons who are biologically capable of bearing children. It forces them to identify themselves in the gender-binary ignoring their gender identity.
- the final decision regarding termination of pregnancy is not decided by the pregnant person, but it is decided by one/two registered medical practitioners (RMP) or a medical board depending on the gestational period.
- Further, abortion facilities are not provided in all public health centres, especially in rural India. And, abortion facilities in private medical centres are expensive.
Surrogacy (Regulation) Act 2021
- The act has been alleged to be disregarding privacy. It requires the intending couple to declare their infertility and reveals the identity of the surrogate, both of which violate the right to privacy and the landmark Puttaswamy judgment.
- It strips the reproductive autonomy of LGBTQ+ persons and single, divorced, and widowed intending parents. Only a heterosexual married couple (with certain preconditions) can be the intending parents. Therefore, It can also be seen as a violation to the fundamental right to equality.
- It allows only altruistic surrogacy, denying women compensation for their reproductive labour. It is also seen as a direct manifestation of the patriarchal mindset.
- Abortions in India are a complex topic. The skewed sex ratio is proof that unsafe abortions and female foeticide are rampant. There are still gaps that need fixing in both the MTP Act 2021 and the Surrogacy Act.
- We should strive for inclusivity, complete bodily autonomy, and reproductive equity. Measuring ourselves on a yardstick of regression shouldn’t become our way of governance.
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