Rethinking Abortion In India: A Human Rights Conversation

Niharika Kaul
16 May 2021

The issue of abortion has gained particular momentum in the past few months with two interesting developments in very different parts of the world- the passage of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) (Amendment) Bill 2020 in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) in India and the recent passage of the Argentinian abortion bill, that legalises abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy. While the MTP (Amendment) Bill 2020 extends the existing time period within which abortion can be conducted in India to 24 weeks in some cases, the Argentinian bill replaces the prior abortion law based on the 'exception model', where three exceptions were allowed to an otherwise blanket criminal prohibition- when a pregnancy endangers the life or health of a woman, girl, or pregnant person, or when it results from rape. After the Argentinian Senate narrowly rejected a bill to decriminalize abortion in 2018, the lower house of Congress finally passed the bill this January.

Continued: https://www.livelaw.in/columns/medical-termination-of-pregnancy-mtp-amendment-bill-2020-world-health-organisation-who-174212


India – Parliament passes bill to increase upper limit for abortions: Why access to safe abortion is essential?

At present, women seeking abortion require mandatory opinion of one doctor if it is done within 12 weeks of conception and two doctors if it is done between 12 and 20 weeks.

By: Longjam Dineshwori  
Updated: March 17, 2021

The Parliament has finally passed The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which increases the upper limit for abortions from 20 to 24 weeks for certain categories of women, and removes limits in the case of substantial foetal abnormalities. The bill was passed on Tuesday with the Rajya Sabha approving the chances, despite majority of the opposition members demanding that the bill should be sent to select committee as it lacks privacy clause. However, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan informed the Parliament that nobody opposed the bill and once enacted, it will reduce the trauma and suffering of women. Mention may be made that the Lok Sabha had passed the bill in March last year.

Continued: https://www.thehealthsite.com/pregnancy/parliament-passes-bill-to-increase-upper-limit-for-abortions-heres-why-women-need-access-to-safe-abortion-802006/


Rajya Sabha nod to Bill on abortion till 24 weeks in special cases

Law after minor UT girl delivered baby in 2017

Mar 17, 2021
Tribune News

The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed a Bill to raise the upper limit for permitting abortions from the present 20 weeks to 24 for minors and victims of rape and incest.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020, was passed by voice vote after rejecting a resolution moved by Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa to refer the Bill to a Parliament committee. The Lok Sabha had passed the Bill in March last year.

Continued: https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/rs-nod-to-bill-on-abortion-till-24-wks-in-special-cases-226332


Abortion Options for Indian Women: Is the New MTP (Amendment) Bill, 2020 Better and Safer?

Deepika Singhania, MAKERS India
28 November 2020

Getting an abortion in India is not just about finding the right doctor who can perform the procedure in a safe manner and through legal methods, it’s also about dealing with the stigma and navigating the laws around it. Though we may be living in 2020, if an Indian woman seeks termination of pregnancy even today, she can not do so openly without judgment and people trying to change her mind.

Says 26-year-old Mithila (name changed), “When I got pregnant, my boyfriend and I couldn’t talk to our friends or family about it. So, we looked up a gynaecologist online. As expected, we got lectured about having sex before marriage and got asked the dreaded question – do your parents know?” The doctor refused to perform the termination and as luck would have it, they found a different doctor who turned out to be very supportive.

Continued: https://in.makers.yahoo.com/abortion-options-for-indian-women-is-the-new-mtp-amendment-bill-2020-better-and-safer-030017248.html


India – The Orissa High Court’s Troubling Judgment To Deny an Abortion

04/10/2020
SAMBIT DASH

On September 23, the Orissa high court — responding to a writ petition concerning the medical termination of pregnancy — refused a physically disabled and mentally challenged rape victim’s request to abort her 24-week-old foetus. The high court relied on the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Rules 2003, plus the advice of doctors, to deny permission. Though the court did grant monetary compensation to support the child’s upbringing, and made the state responsible for the child’s education, was the decision ethical?

Given the woman’s right to privacy, dignity and bodily rights, the case of mental illness, the trauma of rape giving rise to the pregnancy, the state’s interest in preserving life and the law of the land, finding which way the ethical compass here isn’t easy.

Continued: https://science.thewire.in/health/the-orissa-high-courts-troubling-judgment-to-deny-an-abortion/


India – Jammu & Kashmir High Court Allows Abortion Of Rape Victim

India, thus, has been dubbed "the most dangerous country for women" by many human rights activists. But why is India so prone to gender-based crimes?

By: Asif Qureshi
08 Aug 2020

In a first, Jammu and Kashmir High Court has permitted a rape victim from Doda district to terminate her pregnancy. A 17-year-old girl (name withheld), who was 26 weeks pregnant, needed the court's assent since law allows termination after 20 weeks only if the mother's life is in danger. The abortion of the girl took place at Shri Maharaja Gulab Singh hospital Jammu on July 11.

The girl alleges she was kidnapped and raped by a man, Ashok Kumar on December 12 last year. He is under arrest. The decision to allow her to abort was taken by Justice Javaid Iqbal Wani after a panel of doctors submitted her medical report.

Continued: https://news.abplive.com/news/india/jammu-kashmir-high-court-allows-abortion-of-rape-victim-1307470


Lifesaving treatment for babies born at 22 weeks doesn’t mean abortion law should change

Lifesaving treatment for babies born at 22 weeks doesn’t mean abortion law should change

October 25, 2019
Dominic Wilkinson, Consultant Neonatologist and Professor of Ethics, University of Oxford

When new guidance relating to the outcome and medical care of babies born extremely prematurely was recently released, it led some to call for UK abortion law to be revised.

This was because one of the new recommendations from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine is that it is sometimes appropriate to provide resuscitation and active medical treatment for babies born at 22 weeks gestation (four and a half months before their due date). This is a week earlier than was recommended in the last version of the framework, published in 2008.

Continued: https://theconversation.com/lifesaving-treatment-for-babies-born-at-22-weeks-doesnt-mean-abortion-law-should-change-125845


Indian Women Seeking Abortions Are Petitioning the Courts, Even When They Don’t Need To

Indian Women Seeking Abortions Are Petitioning the Courts, Even When They Don’t Need To

By Anubha Rastogi
Oct 4, 2019

In the past three years, there has been an increasing and worrying trend of pregnant women approaching courts of law, either directly or indirectly, seeking permission for terminating the pregnancy that they are carrying.

Initially, these were all cases that were above the 20-week limit that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act sets out. However, a recent study by the Pratigya Campaign shows that even cases of gestational age at 8 weeks and 12 weeks have gone to court seeking permission.

Continued: https://theswaddle.com/abortion-law-india-privacy/


India: MTP Act: What 45-year-old abortion law says, why it must change

On Monday, the Supreme Court allowed rape victim ‘Miss X’ to abort her 24-week-old foetus. ABANTIKA GHOSH outlines the provisions of the law that required the intervention of the country’s top court to save a life.

Written by Abantika Ghosh
Updated: July 26, 2016 12:43 pm

The victim got relief under an exception in section 5 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, which allows abortion after the permissible 20 weeks in case it “is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman”.

The Supreme Court Monday allowed a rape victim to abort her “abnormal” 24-week-old foetus on the ground that the pregnancy would endanger her physical and mental health. The victim got relief under an exception in section 5 of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, which allows abortion after the permissible 20 weeks in case it “is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman”. That the case reached the Supreme Court, posing complicated and uncomfortable questions of law and morality, underscores the tardiness of India’s lawmaking process, and its failure to keep up with rapid change in science and society. A brief look at what began with the Haresh and Niketa Mehta case in 2008, and remains barely half done 9 years later.

When were the limitations of the “legal limit” of abortion revealed?

In 2008, Haresh and Niketa Mehta petitioned Bombay High Court to allow them to abort their 26-week-old foetus who had been diagnosed with a heart defect. For the first time, the national medical narrative took note of the fact that with the advent of medical technology, pre-natal diagnosis of defects had come a long way — and some defects could be revealed after 20 weeks has passed. The Mehtas’ plea was turned down on expert advice. But the court’s observation that only the legislature could address the demand for change in the legal limit meant that India started the process of re-evaluating provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. Niketa, incidentally, had a miscarriage soon after the verdict.

Was the law challenged on any other occasion?

Yes. Last year, a 14-year-old rape victim from Gujarat sought and received permission from the Supreme Court to abort after the 20 weeks deadline had passed. Her petition was treated as a “special case”, meaning it could not be used as a precedent to grant permission in another case. Which is why the woman in whose favour the SC decided on Monday — identified in her petition as “Miss X” — needed to knock on the doors of the apex court afresh.

So, what are the provisions of the new MTP law that is in the works?

The draft Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2014, on which the Health Ministry has sought and received comments, provides for abortion beyond 20 weeks under defined conditions. As per the draft law, a healthcare provider may, “in good faith”, decide to allow abortion between 20 and 24 weeks if, among other conditions, the pregnancy involves substantial risks to the mother or child, or if it is “alleged by the pregnant woman to have been caused by rape”.

The draft law also takes into account the reality of a massive shortage of both doctors and trained midwives, and seeks to allow Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha practitioners to carry out abortions, albeit only through medical means, and not surgical ones.

The draft legislation recognises that the anguish caused by pregnancy resulting from rape “may be presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman”, and that such an injury could be a ground for allowing abortion.

Why is it essential to change the MTP law?

Legal and medical experts feel that a revision of the legal limit for abortion is long overdue. Foetal abnormalities show up only by 18 weeks, so just a two-week window after that is too small for the would-be parents to take the difficult call on whether to keep their baby. Even for the medical practitioner, this window is too small to exhaust all possible options before advising the patient to take the extreme step.

Again, the 45 years since the enactment of the law has seen technology break new grounds — from ultrasound to magnetic resonance imaging to a range of highend foetal monitoring devices that have taken prenatal diagnosis far beyond the illegal sex determination tests that have refused to die out completely.

The rising incidence of sex crimes, and the urgent need to empower women with sexual rights and choices both in their own interest and for the sake of reducing the fertility rate as a whole, have made it imperative that the law be changed. In any case — and what is far more worrying — is the fact that the lack of legal approval does not prevent abortions from being carried out beyond 20 weeks. And they are done in shady, unhygienic conditions by untrained, unqualified quacks, putting thousands of women at risk probably every day.

Source: Indian Express