Abortion Laws in India:
Regressive or Progressive than Other Nations?
BY MANSI VERMA
GNLU (2nd Year)
Abortion has always been a controversial topic that has been considered in the light of different ideologies in different nations. These ideologies have affected the lives and choices of women everywhere and contrary to the popular opinion, these laws are not very consistent with social change that any society has experienced. Despite being a hush hush topic in India, the abortion laws in India have been quite progressive than many other nations around the world. This topic comes under discussion for primarily two years. Firstly, The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021, came into effect from 24th September, 2021. Secondly, recently Texas, a state in the US has come up with 6-week abortion ban law which has come under severe criticism for a number of fairly logical reasons.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE LAW
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act, 2021 modified Section 3 of the Act which extends the upper limit for pregnancy termination to 24 weeks from the current stipulated limit for getting an abortion at 20 weeks. This option of termination can only be exercised by certain categories of women included under the ‘vulnerable women’ section in the act. This category has not been defined yet but would include rape victims amongst others.
This act applies to all the women, married and unmarried alike and has increased the penalties that are present for exposing a women’s identity and details who is undergoing the procedure. Abortion at 20 weeks would apply to all women and would require the approval of a registered medical practitioner. For women seeking abortion between 20-24 weeks, an approval of two registered medical practitioners is required. Abortion after 24 weeks would only apply if any substantial foetal abnormalities are detected at that stage. It would require the approval of a state level medical board.
THE TEXAS BASED LEGISLATION BANNING ABORTIONS BEYOND SIX WEEKS
In the beginning of September,2021, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, assented to a legislation which would criminalize abortions taken beyond six weeks. It seeks to circumvent the US Supreme Court judgement given in Roe v. Wade which rules that “unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional”. The case was about a restrictive abortion law in Texas which was considered to be “in the compelling interests of the state” and the case went on an appeal to the Supreme Court. The question before the court was to determine a “balance between the life of a women and the life of a potential foetus.” The judgement paved way for abolition of strict abortion laws not only in the US but across the globe. It set the limits of abortion at 24 weeks when a foetus is deemed “capable of a meaningful life outside the mother’s womb.”
The new Texas based abortion law tries to somehow circumvent the Supreme Court judgement in Roe v. Wade by putting the onus of reporting the crime on the general population. Anyone may report of a suspected abortion or about someone who “aids and abets the procedure.”
A woman may not know that she is pregnant and six weeks could pass by resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. The Texas based law does not make an exception for victims of rape or incest. The only narrowly defined exception that it makes is regarding the health of the pregnant woman or the foetus in certain conditions.
This law has been challenged in the US supreme Court but the court has refused to adjudicate on the constitutionality of the law as of yet. However, it has also refused to block or bar the implementation of the said law in any manner.
Abortion is a woman centric issue and has to be dealt with sensitively. Several men who are mostly in the position of power have misinformed knowledge of how this procedure works. This results in skewed laws that bestow hardships amongst women and restrict their bodily autonomy. An uneven burden is placed on the female sex and to solve that more women need to step up and take charge.
2. Drishti IAS
3. The Texas Tribune
5. The New York Times
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS IN THE VIDEO
1. Answer is (b). Between 20-24 weeks of pregnancy, the opinion and approval of two medical practitioners is required for the abortion to be conducted. After 24 weeks, the approval of a state level medical board is required.
2. The best possible answer is (c). The passage mentions that the Texas based law defines some categories in which abortion can be allowed after 6 weeks very narrowly. It does talk about the health of the foetus and this could qualify as one of them.
3. Answer is (a). The number of judges present on the bench which gave the ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade was 9. Out of the 9 judges, 7 of them ruled in favour of declaring restrictive abortion laws unconstitutional and 2 of them had the dissenting opinion in the same.