Abortion Laws


Chief Justice of India said India’s Abortion Law was liberal and far ahead of other countries while hearing the case of a married woman who wants to medically terminate her 26 week pregnancy. The CJI referred to Roe vs wade Case of USA.

India’s Abortion Laws

Abortion laws in India are governed by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, which was enacted in 1971 and amended in subsequent years.

Here are key points regarding India's abortion laws under the MTP Act:

  1. Conditions for Legal Abortion:
    • Abortion is legal in India under certain conditions, such as when continuing the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or could cause physical or mental health issues.
    • The MTP Act allows for the termination of a pregnancy up to 20 weeks, and beyond 20 weeks if a registered medical practitioner certifies that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or grave injury to her physical or mental health.
  2. Who Can Perform Abortions:
    • Abortions can be performed by registered medical practitioners who have the necessary qualifications as specified by the MTP Act.
  3. Circumstances Under Which Abortion is Permitted:
    • Abortion is permitted in cases of failure of contraception, where the pregnancy is a result of rape, or where there is a risk to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.
  4. Marital Status and Age:
    • The MTP Act does not make a distinction based on marital status, and abortion can be sought by married as well as unmarried women.
    • For minors (below 18 years), the consent of a guardian is usually required.
  5. Authorized Facilities:
    • Abortions must be conducted in government-approved or registered facilities.
  6. Preconditions for Abortion:
    • In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, one registered medical practitioner's opinion is required.
    • Between 12 and 20 weeks, the opinion of two registered medical practitioners is needed.
  7. Post-20 Weeks:
    • Beyond 20 weeks, abortion is allowed only in cases where there is a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or if there is a substantial risk of serious physical or mental abnormalities in the fetus.
Reforms needed in India’s abortion Law

Discussions around reforms in India's abortion laws have been ongoing, and proposals for amendments have been suggested by various stakeholders.

  1. Extension of the Time Limit:
    • Some activists and healthcare professionals have suggested extending the time limit for legal abortions beyond 20 weeks, particularly in cases where severe fetal abnormalities are detected. This could provide more flexibility for women facing difficult decisions later in pregnancy.
  1. Expanding Provider Base:
    • Advocates have proposed expanding the types of healthcare providers who can perform abortions. This could include mid-level healthcare providers and nurses, under appropriate training and supervision, to increase access to safe abortion services.
  2. Removing Spousal Consent:
    • Currently, the law requires the consent of the spouse for married women seeking an abortion. Some argue that this provision should be removed to prioritize a woman's autonomy over her own body.
  3. Addressing Stigma and Awareness:
    • There is a need for awareness campaigns to reduce the stigma associated with abortion. Many women may not be aware of their rights or may fear societal judgment. Education and awareness initiatives can help address this issue.
  4. Access to Safe Abortion Services:
    • Improving access to safe abortion services, especially in rural and remote areas, is a critical aspect of reform. This includes ensuring that trained healthcare providers are available and that women are aware of where and how to access safe services.
  5. Telemedicine for Abortion Services:
    • The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the potential benefits of telemedicine. Some have suggested incorporating telemedicine into abortion services, especially for consultations and follow-ups, to improve access and reduce barriers.
  6. Involvement of Single Window Clearance:
    • Simplifying and streamlining the approval process for legal abortions, including a single-window clearance system, could reduce delays and make the process more efficient.
  7. Inclusion of Comprehensive Sexuality Education:
    • There is a call for the inclusion of comprehensive sexuality education in schools to empower individuals with knowledge about reproductive health and family planning, thereby reducing unintended pregnancies.

These are just a few examples of areas where reforms have been considered. Public health experts, legal professionals, and advocacy groups play a crucial role in shaping the dialogue around these issues and working towards improvements in reproductive health policies and laws.

Practice Question:

Discuss the reforms needed in Abortion laws of India.

Posted by on 14th Oct 2023