Abortion Laws


Throughout history, induced abortions have been a source of considerable debate and controversy. An individual’s personal stance on the complex ethical, moral, and legal issues has a strong relationship with the given individual’s value system. A person’s position on abortion may be described as a combination of their personal beliefs on the morality of induced abortion and the ethical limit of the government’s legitimate authority.

It is a woman’s individual rights, right to her life, to her liberty, and to the pursuit of her happiness, that sanctions her right to have an abortion. A women’s reproductive and sexual health and shape her reproductive choices. Reproductive rights are internationally recognized as critical both to advancing women’s human rights and to promoting development. In recent years, governments from all over the world have acknowledged and pledged to advance reproductive rights to an unprecedented degree. Formal laws and policies are crucial indicators of government commitment to promoting reproductive rights. Each and every women has an absolute right to have control over her body, most often known as bodily rights.

Women have overtly or covertly resorted to abortion, but their access to services has been countered by the imposition of social and legal restrictions, many of which have origin in morality and religion. The norms governing the ethics of abortion have been constantly remoulded to suit the times and the social contexts in which they are set. Despite the dissimilarities in their construct, intent and orientation, these norms have invariably been directed to the fulfillment of social needs that do not recognise women’s right to determine their sexuality, fertility and reproduction.

Indian law allows abortion, if the continuance of pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or grave injury to her physical or mental health.

Abortion was being practised earlier by many. Because it was illegal, it was practised in a clandestine manner. The passing of the Act made medical termination of pregnancy legal, with certain conditions for safeguarding the health of the mother.

Abortion is severely condemned in Vedic, Upanishadic, the laterpuranic(old) and smriti literature. Paragraph 3 of the Code of
Ethics of the Medical Council of India says: I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception.

The Supreme Court has said that the right to privacy is implicit in Article 21 of the Constitution and a right to abortion can be read from this right.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act: The MTP Act in India is founded on the principles of the British act passed by its parliament in 1967. As an opening paragraph states, the MTP Act is designed “to provide for the termination for certain pregnancies by registered Medical Practitioners and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto” (emphasis added). In essence, it liberalises and (attempts to) regularise medical practices and institutions in relation to abortion and, consequently, allows medical liberalisation to supersede medical criminalisation.

The child sex ratio had deteriorated across the country over the last decade. In the Indian context there is a strong preference for son. The girl child’s very existence is threatened. Girl children are vulnerable to foeticide and infanticide. The Indian Penal Code deals with these offences but there is hardly any prosecution or conviction under the IPC. The Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT) now stands renamed as ‘The Pre-Conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 2003 (PCPNDT). The PCPNDT Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception and regulates the use of pre natal diagnostic techniques for the purpose of detecting genetic abnormalities or other sex linked disorders in the fetus. The PCPNDT Act stipulates that no person shall conduct or cause to be conducted any pre natal diagnostic techniques including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of a foetus.

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