Safe and legal abortion is a woman’s right. Sex selective abortion amounts to discrimination against a particular sex, in most cases, female sex. Abortion is legal in India.

A 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act spells out the conditions under which it can be carried out. There has been some confusion about whether the advocacy against female foeticide – “killing” the female foetus– can be interpreted as an anti-abortion stance. That is not true. Abortion for the purposes of eliminating a certain unwanted sex is illegal. In other words, abortion for the purposes of sex selection is illegal.

When can you terminate the Pregnancy ? 

Under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1972, pregnancy may be terminated, provided certain conditions are met. It may be noted that medical termination of pregnancy can take place only in a hospital established or maintained by Government, or a place for the time being approved by Government. If the person is a minor or mentally unsound, no abortion can take place without the consent of the guardian.

In all other cases, pregnancy can be terminated:

  • Where the length of the pregnancy has not exceeded twelve weeks – if one registered medical practitioner.
  • Where the length of the pregnancy exceeds twelve weeks but does not exceed twenty weeks – if not less than two registered medical practitioners are, of opinion formed in good faith, that—
  • The continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical or mental health; or
  • There is a substantial risk that if the child was born, it would have suffered from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.The only exception to the requirements under the Act arises if the termination of a pregnancy is immediately necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, in which case, a registered medical practitioner may conduct an abortion at a place other than those specified under the Act, irrespective of the period of pregnancy.There is a statutory presumption that where the pregnancy is alleged by the pregnant woman to have been caused by rape,or where pregnancy occurs as a result of failure of contraception used by any married woman or her husband for the purpose of limiting the number of children, such pregnancy is a “a grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant woman”, and therefore, in such cases, there is a statutory entitlement to abortion. Besides this, the Act also provides that in determining whether the continuance of a pregnancy would involve such risk or injury, account may be taken of the pregnant woman’s actual or reasonably foreseeable environment. However, this leaves the ultimate decision in the hands of the medical practitioner, and there is no legal entitlement to abortion.

Religious bodies and even Governments have taken sides for and against abortion. Almost all women’s groups, medical professional organisations and intergovernmental bodies of the United Nations view abortion as a reproductive right of women. This is specified in ICESCR (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination. against Women) and declarations like ICPD (United Nations International Conference on Population and Development).

Ever since abortion was made legal in India under the MTP (Medical Termination of Pregnancy) Act in 1971, there has been some increase in safer access to abortion services and a partial reduction of maternal mortality.

Download the MTP Act here


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