Saturday July 20, 2019

Indian Abortion Law: A bemusing mirage leading to a sham

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By Sreyashi Mazumdar

Cracking down upon the parochial understanding of sexuality and conjugal intercourse, India might have rolled out an exclusive law to legalize abortion, however the furore which was unleashed over a 14-year-old rape victim striving hard to acquire a consent to get aborted (who was at her 25th week of pregnancy) unveils the dissemblance put up by the law.

A mirage often bemuses one owing to the sham it puts forth, it cohabits both existence and non-existence. It feigns the possibility of a thing being real but when looked into closely, the possibility vanishes, leaving behind a void.

Toeing on a similar line of thought, Indian abortion law is nothing less than a mirage. While looking into the nitty-gritty of the law, one might get hold of the facade borne by the same.

Tenets of the Medical Termination of the Pregnancy Act 1971 (Act no: 34 of 1971)

-In order to have an abortion, one requires to get it done by a registered medical practitioner.

(Definition of a medical practitioner- Cl.(h) of Sec. 2 of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 (102 of 1956), whose name has been entered in a State Medical Register and who has such experience or training in gynaecology and obstetrics as may be prescribed by rules made under this Act. 3.)

  • A pregnancy can be terminated at the behest of a medical practitioner.
  • A woman can take to abortion if the length of the pregnancy period doesn’t exceed 12 weeks (and if permitted by the medical practitioner under concern).

However, a woman can also have abortion considering the fact that the length of pregnancy doesn’t exceed 20 weeks. Nevertheless, under such a circumstance, the woman under consideration requires to garner a permit from two medical practitioners.

A medical practitioner permits an abortion on conditions as follow

  • If the pregnancy is caused by rape
  • If the new born child beholds the possibility of suffering from mental or physical abnormalities.
  • If the woman (married woman in this case) has been subjected to a grave physical condition owing to intakes of contraceptive pills.

– In case the individual under consideration is a minor or above 18 and is a lunatic, a guardian’s permit is compulsory for the same.

The aforementioned sections of the MTP Act inevitably ends up breaking the bubble; a bubble which gives one the feeling of being a part of a country which is quite progressive and affirms a woman’s right  to abortion.

Bubble Buster

“Unfortunately, despite having a law on abortion, a woman cannot avail the same without the consent of the provider. An 18 year can get an abortion, even if she is unmarried, under the clause of rape and mental health,” said Dr. Shalini Desai, Assistant Coordinator at Asia Safe Abortion Partnership.

She further fleshes out the conditions under which abortion becomes hazardous for the woman undergoing the same, “Gestational age, a number of previous children, nutritional status, anaemia, previous birth history, caesarean sections etc are conditions under which a woman shouldn’t get an abortion done.”

The sham does not end here. Adhering to the clauses under the POSCO act 2012, in case, a minor ends up having a conjugal intercourse with her boyfriend, then the entire act falls under the ambit of rape. ” Abortion becomes all the more difficult for a minor owing to the introduction of the POSCO Act. Therefore, a girl under such a circumstance is left with no other choice but to resort to illegal remedies in case informing her parents doesn’t befit her,” laments Dr. Desai.

Further, medical practitioners require to behold a rational perspective, they need to get sensitized on varied levels, especially when a woman opting for an abortion is unmarried. Sensitisation becomes all the more important owing to the decision-making power the medical practitioners wield in abortion cases. According to a report in idiva.com, a woman despite being above 18 was denied an abortion owing to her marital status. “We can do a pregnancy test here if you want, but if you want an abortion, then please don’t come here. Go elsewhere,” reported a nurse at the medical hospital when the aforementioned woman wanted to get an abortion.

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Distressful cases

India, despite sanctioning abortion, is flooded with abortion death cases owing to the skewed nature of the MTP Act. The amorphousness of the act has ended up unleashing a string of death cases. Besides this, the act also ends up making the entire process of abortion tenuous and stressful.

For instance, the 14-year-old Ahmedabad girl who had to take to the apex court in order to seek a permit for abortion as she was 24 weeks pregnant had to wade through a series of legal procedures- the girl was refused a legal permit for abortion by the Gujarat High Court. According to media reports, she was allegedly raped by her doctor when she visited him for a check up. She was made to gobble a sedative after which she was allegedly raped. Despite being rendered a legal permit, the onus was on the doctors- a committee of 5 doctors officiated by the court- to decide upon the matter.

According to an Indian Express report, a Mumbai couple Harsh and Niketa Mehta failed to garner a legal grant for an abortion in the year 2008. The woman under consideration was carrying a 26-year-old foetus owing to which they had to resort to legal remedies.

The court refuted their plea on the condition that the medical practitioners who were looking into the case had categorically denied the fact that the new born child would suffer from serious handicaps( the condition owing to which the couple wanted to have an abortion).

However, Niketa later on had a miscarriage and ran into a dismal end.

Awaited antidotes to resolve the severity

Looking into the austerity of the situation, the Indian government should brace themselves up for a better law to put an end to the murky status of abortion. Despite the government coming up with a draft MTP(Amendment) Bill 2014, the challenges of abortion do not end there. The bill renders the period of 20-24 weeks as perfect for abortion. Other than that, the bill does not improve upon the obliquity of the MTP act.

“The media must don an active role in order to educate people from across the board on the legalities of abortion and the methods that one should take to in order to undergo the same,” said Dr. Shalini Desai.

“Studies show that less than 30 per cent of the Indian women are aware of the fact that abortion is legal in India. More awareness in needed, combined with safe abortion services easily accessible by women,” expounded Dr Manisha Gupte, pondering upon the possible remedies to put an end to the abortion deaths.

Musing the murky situation, one needs to figure out the counter-poisons to fix the labyrinth. The government needs to stand on its feet to combat the problem, along with that, sensitization and sex education are the two important elements which the Indians need to get apprised of.  Further, an abortion has lesser to do with the body and more to do with liberty, one’s right to life and the way one chooses to live.

 

Next Story

Trump: Taxpayer-Funded Family Planning Clinics Must Stop Referring Women for Abortions Immediately

Ahead of a planned conference Tuesday with the clinics, the Health and Human Services Department formally notified them

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FILE - A Planned Parenthood clinic is seen June 4, 2019, in St. Louis. A Missouri commissioner on June 28, 2019, ruled that the state's only abortion clinic can continue providing the service at least until August as a fight over its license plays out. VOA

Taxpayer-funded family planning clinics must stop referring women for abortions immediately, the Trump administration said Monday, declaring it will begin enforcing a new regulation hailed by religious conservatives and denounced by medical organizations and women’s rights groups.

The head of a national umbrella group representing the clinics said the administration is following “an ideological agenda” that could disrupt basic health care for many low-income women.

Ahead of a planned conference Tuesday with the clinics, the Health and Human Services Department formally notified them that it will begin enforcing the ban on abortion referrals, along with a requirement that clinics maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions. Another requirement that both kinds of facilities cannot be under the same roof would take effect next year.

The rule is widely seen as a blow against Planned Parenthood, which provides taxpayer-funded family planning and basic health care to low-income women, as well as abortions that must be paid for separately. The organization is a mainstay of the federally funded family planning program and it has threatened to quit over the issue.

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Taxpayer-funded family planning clinics must stop referring women for abortions immediately. Pixabay

Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said in a statement that “our doors are still open” as her organization and other groups seek to overturn the regulations in federal court. “We will not stop fighting for all those across the country in need of essential care,” Wen said.

HHS said no judicial orders currently prevent it from enforcing the rule while the litigation proceeds.

Clare Coleman, president of the umbrella group National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said “the administration’s actions show its intent is to further an ideological agenda.”

Abortion opponents welcomed the administration’s move. “Ending the connection between abortion and family planning is a victory for common-sense health care,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, said in a statement.

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Known as Title X, the family-planning program serves about 4 million women annually through independent clinics, many operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates, which serve about 40 percent of all clients. The program provides about $260 million a year in grants to clinics.

The family planning rule is part of a series of Trump administration efforts to remake government policy on reproductive health.

Other regulations tangled up in court would allow employers to opt out of offering free birth control to women workers on the basis of religious or moral objections, and grant health care professionals wider leeway to opt out of procedures that offend their religious or moral scruples.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.

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The head of a national umbrella group representing the clinics said the administration is following “an ideological agenda” that could disrupt basic health care. Pixabay

Under the administration’s rule, clinic staff would still be permitted to discuss abortion with clients, along with other options. However, that would no longer be required.

The American Medical Association is among the professional groups opposed to the administration’s policy, saying it could affect low-income women’s access to basic medical care, including birth control, cancer screenings and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. By law, the family planning program does not pay for abortions.

Religious conservatives see the regulation as a means to end what they call an indirect taxpayer subsidy of abortion providers.

Although abortion remains politically divisive, the U.S. abortion rate has dropped significantly, from about 29 per 1,000 women of reproductive age in 1980 to about 15 in 2014. Better contraception, fewer unintended pregnancies and state restrictions may have played a role, according to a recent scientific report. Polls show most Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.

Also Read- Researchers Develop AI Algorithm That can Solve Rubik’s Cube in Less Than a Second

The Trump administration’s policy echoes a Reagan-era regulation that barred clinics from even discussing abortion with women. It never went into effect as written, although the Supreme Court ruled it was appropriate.

The policy was rescinded under President Bill Clinton, and a new rule took effect requiring “nondirective” counseling to include a full range of options for women. The Trump administration is now rolling back the Clinton requirement. (VOA)