The abortion legislation in 1971 was one of the most socially progressive laws of its time. In 1971, policymakers introduced the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) law. This law stated that all women should be allowed access to safe and legal abortion. Not only did India legalize abortion, but they also gave everyone in the country the right to reproductive health services so there are facts about abortion in India that tend to be forgotten
The same law created nearly 50 years ago is still intact to this day. But there have been a few amendments changing the requirements needed to qualify for an abortion. One amendment was made in 2003 detailing the different options to terminate a pregnancy. The most recent amendment was created in 2021, and it lengthened the amount of time women were able to get an abortion. This law and set of legal regulations were set to make abortion a safe process for the 15.6 million abortions in India. Especially since around 56% of these abortions were unsafe.
1. Abortion in India is legal!
Abortion is legal in India, and it has been for 50 years when The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) was introduced in 1971. But abortion is still a highly debated topic among the people and the policymakers. Even though abortion in India is debated, opinions on it are not as politicalized as other countries make it, and most people understand both sides of pro-life and pro-choice arguments. Because the main religion of India is Hinduism, and it is against abortions, many people in society still look down on women who use their right to terminate a pregnancy. However, like in all religions, not everyone follows exactly what they say is acceptable.
2. Only OBGYNs Can Perform Abortions in India
In India, it is a fact abortions are still heavily regulated. As a result, women in India can only get an abortion from specific highly specialized doctors such as obstetrician-gynecologists instead of from nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives, and physicians assistants like some other countries. This can make it more difficult to find doctors who can prescribe the medications needed for an abortion. This can also be an issue for those who live in more remote areas of India since they may have to travel farther to find a doctor who can perform an abortion.
3. Women in India Do Not Need To Be Married To Get An Abortion
In the 2014 amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) law, women no longer had to be married to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The previous law stated that women who wanted an abortion due to failure of other contraceptives had to be married. The restrictions of the 2014 amendment were further loosened with the 2021 amendment. Now, women can get an abortion in weeks 20-24 of their pregnancy if they have a change in marital status meaning if they get divorced or widowed.
4. Indian Women Can Only Get an Abortion Under Certain Circumstances
Abortion in India is legal for women who are at most 24 weeks pregnant. There are also only four acceptable circumstances in which women in India can get an abortion. The following reasons a woman can get an abortion include:
- If being pregnant or having a baby is risky or harmful to a woman’s physical or mental health, she may have an abortion.
- If the woman is a sexual assault victim and the baby would result from rape or incest.
- If the woman is married or in a serious relationship and the birth control fails to work.
- If there is a risk that the child will be born with physical or mental abnormalities, the woman can get an abortion with approval from a team of three doctors, including a gynecologist, a pediatrician, and a radiologist.
Although abortion is legal in India, women are still unable to simply choose that they want an abortion. Abortions need to be approved and vetted to make sure the reasons for them are legal and legitimate.
5. The Last Fact about Abortion in India Requires Consent of Doctors
Although abortion is legal, women in Indian need the consent of doctors to be able to have an abortion. This can make getting an abortion difficult since doctors can have their own opinions on abortion and refuse to say the abortion is necessary. Because of the recent amendment to the MTP law, women now only need the approval of one medical specialist if
they are up to 20 weeks pregnant. Women who are 24 weeks pregnant need two medical practitioners to sign off on the abortion. If the reason for the abortion is because the baby might be born unhealthy, three medical professionals need to confirm the diagnosis. The three-person medical team needs to be a gynecologist, a pediatrician, and a radiologist.