India: When knowledge can be fatal

When knowledge can be fatal
Thursday, 18 January 2018 | Swapna Majumdar | in Oped

It is disheartening that the courts have failed women in strengthening access to comprehensive abortion care. The country needs a gender-responsive justice system

The judiciary plays a key role in interpreting laws. On a sensitive issue like abortion, where policy and legal ambiguities exist, clarity provided by the court can ensure a woman's right to bodily integrity and autonomy. This is especially so when laws, like the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 (PCPNDT Act) contradict provisions for safe abortions in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. Yet, a review of all judgements interpreting the MTP Act and other laws related to abortion till 2016 show that directives passed by three important Indian courts have perpetuated stereotypes of women seeking abortion.