India: Abortion: It’s every woman’s right to choose


Abortion: It’s every woman’s right to choose
According to the latest estimates published in the December issue of The Lancet, in 2015, a staggering 15.6 million abortions occurred in India. Of these 15.6 million abortions, 73% were sought outside health facilities. While unsafe abortions in the country have reduced significantly, about eight lakh women still resort to unsafe means to end an unwanted pregnancy.

Jan 06, 2018
Soli Sorabjee

Last year, in what is considered a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that individual privacy is a “guaranteed fundamental right”. The nine-judge bench ruled that the right to privacy is comprised in the right to life and liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution. This judgment will have significant implications for the protection of citizens’ personal freedom against intrusions by the State. While the furore about privacy and its breach began with the linking of Aadhaar numbers with various programmes, the judgment addressed several other issues that the bench believed came under the ambit of privacy. Recognising a woman’s prerogative to make decisions about her health and body, the bench ruled that “there is no doubt that a woman’s right to make reproductive choices is also a dimension of ‘personal liberty’ as guaranteed under Article 21.

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India: Rape Survivors’ Right to Abortion: Are Doctors Listening?


Rape Survivors’ Right to Abortion: Are Doctors Listening?
By Padma D. and Sangeeta R.
Sep 8, 2017

Recent amendments to the rape laws have made it mandatory for all hospitals to provide immediate treatment to survivors of rape. An abortion is an essential element of such care.

What is the ethical and legal responsibility of doctors when it comes to abortion for pregnant rape survivors? Credit: Reuters

The news of rape survivors, especially children, being denied abortion has been in the public eye for some time. First it was a ten-year-old rape survivor, 28 weeks pregnant, and the second was a 13-year-old child, 26 weeks pregnant, both reaching medical institutions/doctors but being turned away by the medical system owing to the advanced stages of pregnancy. Both appealed to the Supreme Court to seek permission for abortion. The court did not allow an abortion for the ten-year-old child, compelling her to proceed with the pregnancy, while the 13-year-old child has been allowed to terminate the pregnancy.
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“Not a woman’s choice”: India’s abortion limit puts women at risk, say campaigners


"Not a woman's choice": India's abortion limit puts women at risk, say campaigners

Roli Srivastava
September 5, 2017

MUMBAI, Sept 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - They didn’t pop open boxes of sweets or send out excited phone messages when their first child was born at public hospital on a rainy Mumbai night in July.

The couple had known from the 24th week of the pregnancy that their child would be born with Arnold Chiari Type II syndrome - a structural defect in the brain.

Since abortions in India are allowed only up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, the couple petitioned India’s Supreme Court to allow them a to terminate the pregnancy, which was by then 27 weeks. The court rejected their plea.

Continued at source: Reuters:

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India: The MTP Act 2014 makes safe abortion easier, it should be passed


The MTP Act 2014 makes safe abortion easier, it should be passed

Given the fact that the basket of contraceptives that should be available to couples are not always accessible, abortion is one way a woman has control over her body and can deal with an unwanted pregnancy

Jul 22, 2017
Lalita Panicker
Hindustan Times

The figures are chilling – 10 women die every day from unsafe abortions making this the third leading cause of maternal mortality in India. Clearly, these are the result of back alley procedures owing to the fact, in part, that at least 80% of women don’t know that abortion is legal in India. And unfortunately, many doctors still tend to associate abortions with gender-based sex selection under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PC&PNDT) Act, 1994, which is illegal. The very word abortion raises the hackles of the conservatives whether in Trump’s America or right here. It is somehow seen as encouraging promiscuity and in the Indian context sex selection.

Continued at source: Hindustan Times:

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India: Woman’s plea for abortion: SC forms 7-doctor medical board


Woman's plea for abortion: SC forms 7-doctor medical board

Press Trust of India, New Delhi
Jun 23 2017

The Supreme Court today constituted a medical board of seven doctors of the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata to ascertain health of a 24-week pregnant woman wanting to undergo abortion on the grounds of foetus abnormality.

A vacation bench of justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul directed the medical board to submit the report by June 29 after ascertaining the health of the mother and the foetus. During the hearing, the counsel for the West Bengal government said it has been decided to constitute a team of seven doctors to ascertain the medical condition.

Continued at source: Deccan Herald:

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India: SC notice to govt on abortion deadline


SC notice to govt on abortion deadline
Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN | Jun 22, 2017

NEW DELHI: Delay in amending the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act to provide women a wider window to abort terminally ill fetuses is forcing many to move the Supreme Court for permission to end their pregnancies that are beyond the legally permissible termination period of 20 weeks.

The SC on Wednesday sought the Centre's response to a petition by a Kolkata-based pregnant woman challenging the validity of Section 3 of the MTP Act, 1971, which says pregnancy cannot be terminated after 20 weeks.

Continued at source: Times of India:

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India’s abortion wars


India’s abortion wars
Published Apr 16, 2017

A woman must have the right to decide whether she wants to continue a pregnancy or not. A woman’s decision about her own body is supreme.

Across the world, abortion debates are usually cast as a battle between “choice” and “life”. Some argue that a woman’s decision about her own body is paramount, while others opine it’s the question of a developing living being’s life.

In September 2016, the Bombay High Court in response to public interest litigation (PIL) ruled: “Pregnancy has profound effects on a woman’s health and life. Thus, how she wants to deal with this pregnancy must be a decision she alone can make. Let us not lose sight of the basic right of women: the right to decide what to do with their bodies, including whether or not to get pregnant and stay pregnant”.

Continued at source: Deccan Chronicle:

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India: A tricky debate on abortion


160803 - Oped - Abortion debateUpdated: August 3, 2016 01:48 IST
by K. Kannan

It might be more prudent to look at counselling instead of rushing through a law liberalising abortion.

Recently, in a case before the Supreme Court, a woman successfully obtained direction for medical termination of pregnancy (abortion) after 24 weeks on a plea that she was raped by her boyfriend on the false promise of marriage. In another case, the Delhi High Court intervened directing medical examination for fitness for abortion responding to the poignant tale of a 16-year-old kidnapped by unknown persons, sexually abused by them for two years, and finally found abandoned near the Delhi University campus. The orders in both cases were beyond the permissible period in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP Act). There is an outcry for change in law for easy availability of the option to abort without court intervention. Does it discard patient autonomy and impose unnecessary restrictions? Can a woman have the right to seek abortion at any time she pleases? Should the state have a say in an intimate matter of what a woman wants to do with the foetus?

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Source: The Hindu

Graphic: 160803 - Oped - Abortion debate, Keshav

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FEATURE: Second Trimester Abortion in India: Extending the law from 20 to 24 weeks

Demonstration in Jammu, 20 December 2012, in protest at the rape and brutalisation of a young woman in Delhi, Press TV


2 August 2016

In 1971, the Government of India passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP Act), one of the most liberal abortion laws of its day, which went into effect in 1972. It allowed abortion on a range of grounds – to save the woman's life, to preserve her physical or mental health, as a result of rape or incest, fetal impairment, and on economic or social grounds. Contraceptive failure on the part of a woman or her husband was also considered a ground; India is one of the few countries explicitly permitting this in the terms of the law. Unless it was deemed a medical emergency, abortion had to take place up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion has to be carried out by a registered physician in a hospital established or maintained by the Government or in a facility approved by the government. A second opinion is required in cases where the pregnancy is between 12 and 20 weeks, except in urgent cases. In general, the consent of the pregnant woman is required before the performance of an abortion, while written consent of her guardian must be obtained for a minor (defined as under age 18).

Although the law is liberal, a large proportion of abortions are unsafe or occur outside the terms of the law. Estimates show that of the 6 million abortions each year in India, 55-60% are still classified as unsafe, contributing to 8% of total maternal deaths, with younger women most at risk of complications. Moreover, some 25% of abortions in India take place in the second trimester, especially because girls and women face multiple barriers to accessing early abortion in many parts of the country.

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Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

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Abortion law in India pays more attention to childbirth than it does childhood or motherhood


By Tanya Manglik

On Thursday, the Supreme Court began hearing a petition by a 26-year-old-woman seeking an abortion in the 24th week of her pregnancy, considered too late by Indian law. In her petition, the woman also sought to challenge the validity of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP), 1971, according to which a woman is allowed an abortion only up to the 20th week of her pregnancy. Her case is one that should be followed with interest, especially as recent cases seeking permission for late abortions from Indian courts have met with differing outcomes: While in some cases courts have granted permission for an abortion, in others, women have been forced to go through with the pregnancy, even if it took place as the result of rape.

Currently, Section 3 of the Act only allows for termination of a pregnancy up to the 20th week when there is a danger to the life or risk to physical and mental health of the woman, on humanitarian grounds, such as when pregnancy is the result of rape, or if there is “substantial risk” that the child will be born with serious mental or physical abnormalities. Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, who is representing the petitioner in the Supreme Court, said that the present case is urgent because the life of the woman is in danger. She has said that her ex-fiance raped her on the false promise of marriage. The foetus also has anencephaly, a birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the skull and brain.  The woman, who comes from a poor family, argued that her physical and mental health was at risk, and in the petition contended that the 20-week ceiling was, “unreasonable, arbitrary, harsh, discriminatory and violative of the right to life and equality.” The petition also sought an order to set up expert panels at hospitals that provide abortions to pregnant women and girls who are survivors of sexual assault and have passed 20 weeks.

There have been other cases of rape survivors asking courts to allow an abortion after 20 weeks. In 2015, the Punjab and Haryana High Court rejected the plea of a 14-year-old rape survivor to terminate her 24-week pregnancy, saying going ahead with the abortion put her life at greater risk than continuing with the pregnancy. In another judgment the same year, the Gujarat High Court rejected the abortion plea of a 24-year-old who was abducted from her village in Botad and raped. She escaped after six months, but her husband and in-laws refused to take her back. The male judge presiding over her case said there was no question of allowing an abortion as the seven-month foetus had a high chance of survival, going on to say, “I know the pain, agony and stigma in this case…” Forced to give birth to her rapist’s child, the woman refused to keep it and handed over the newborn to the state government. In 2008, the Bombay High Court refused a petition by Niketa Mehta for abortion of a 26-week foetus with a serious heart defect.However, the same Gujarat High Court that denied the 24-year-old woman an abortion in 2015 agreed soon after to grant permission for the termination of pregnancy in a 14-year-old girl whose plea for abortion had already been rejected twice. The girl, a rape survivor, was in the 24th week of her pregnancy, and doctors stated in a report that the girl was “psychologically devastated” and “physically too weak to deliver a child.”

Some medical experts in India have been recommending that abortions be allowed beyond 20 weeks. This is in line with the law in some countries like the UK and Singapore, where abortions are legal up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. In fact, in 2014, after pushing from doctors, activists and the National Commission for Women, India’s Ministry for Health and Family Welfare proposed amending the MTP Act to allow abortion up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. At the time, a doctor told DNA, “We generally ask a patient to undergo tests around the 18th week to find abnormalities. Some reports take three weeks and we lose out on the MTP cut-off time. A little extension will be a boon to a lot of women.”

In 2009, a Mumbai-based doctor sought amendment of the MTP Act, a case that the Supreme Court is still hearing. In 2014, a bench of the Supreme Court admitted a petition by the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) which challenged the constitutional validity of the 20-week limit on behalf of two women who were identified as Mrs X and Mrs Y, Mrs X was informed by her doctors that the foetus would not survive, but the court rejected her plea at 26 weeks of pregnancy, and she was forced to carry the child who died three hours after birth, and after three days of excruciating labour pains. Mrs Y was told in her 19th week that some of the foetus’s brain tissue might have been missing and test results would only come out by the 20th week, so she was forced to terminate the pregnancy without full knowledge of the abnormality because of the deadline imposed by the MTP Act. HRLN argued that the 20-week limit violated Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 19 (Right to Freedom), and Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution of India.

Currently, the law on termination of abortion pays more attention to childbirth than it does childhood or motherhood. But here’s the part of the petition the Supreme Court is currently hearing that has wide significance: once more, it isn’t just asking that the woman in question be allowed an abortion. It’s challenging the very constitutional validity of the MTP Act, and asking that the section of the Act with 20-week limit be declared unconstitutional, or be read down.

The Ladies Finger is a leading online feminist magazine.

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