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Legalization of Abortion

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Legalizing abortion guarantees women the right to make their choice and imparts independence and justice. Read this article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Richa Agarwal

Published At March 7, 2023
Reviewed AtMay 21, 2024

Introduction:

Pregnancy and motherhood are an individual's choice. Having or not having a child is primarily the mother's decision, as she is vital in conceiving and carrying the child. Motherhood cannot be forced on someone or cannot be attained by compulsion. However, even with such modernization and technological advances, women are still subjected to forced pregnancy. They are forced to conceive and carry a child under the pretext of social, cultural, and religious stigma. Sexual violence, rape, and marital rape are common reasons for unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. In such a situation, the female should have the sole right to decide if the pregnancy should be continued, and if she desires otherwise, she deserves legal help to terminate the same. Pregnancy and parenthood is a beautiful journey that should be planned and committed with the consent of both individuals involved.

What Is Abortion?

Any unwanted or unplanned pregnancy should be terminated medically. This procedure is known as abortion. Abortion can be done medically or surgically. Roughly 73 million abortions are conducted globally in a year. It is estimated that 61 % of unintended pregnancies end up in abortion. Abortion is a challenging and distressing situation followed by an array of emotional and psychological issues. Abortions primarily depend on the gestation age of the fetus and are broadly classified into two types:

  • Medical Abortion: This type is usually preferred in early pregnancy, up to 10 weeks. Drugs like Mifepristone and Misoprostol are commonly used to terminate pregnancy. Medical abortion can be conducted at home or in a clinical setup.

  • Surgical Abortion: Advanced pregnancies may require surgical termination, usually conducted in a hospital or medical facility.

Abortion, when carried under trained professionals and comprehensive medical care, is safe and causes no adverse events. Medical abortions can be well managed by the patients at home if carried out under appropriate medical supervision. Comprehensive abortion care usually includes pre-abortion counseling, abortion management, and post-abortion care.

However, when the pregnancy is unintended or due to forced conditions, women face severe backlashes when they desire to terminate the pregnancy. The fear of social discrimination, shame, humiliation, dishonor, and defamation may provoke them to resort to unsafe methods of abortion. In addition, certain socioeconomic barriers and geographic limitations, such as access to health care, may be difficult and may hinder safe abortion, forcing women to continue the pregnancy.

Abortion is a significant public health concern that needs to be addressed legally so that all women have access to safe, timely, and respectful abortion.

What Is the Need for Abortion?

Women may desire an abortion for various reasons. A few of them are listed below:

  • Unwanted or unplanned pregnancy.

  • Lack of financial support.

  • Partner-related issues.

  • Emotionally or mentally unprepared.

  • Health-related concerns.

  • Social influences.

An abortion should be justified if a woman seeks the same. A child born of unwanted pregnancy may face various developmental and social problems that could be detrimental. Hence understanding the women's decision and supporting her in terminating the pregnancy would be more favorable. Granting her the rights to safe, respectful, and timely abortion is obligatory.

Legalization of Abortion

What Are the Risks of Unsafe Abortion?

Studies indicate that 45 % of induced abortions are unsafe, particularly in developing countries where 97 % of abortions carried out are unsafe. The unsafe practices include being carried out in the least safe environment, by quacks, and using invasive and dangerous methods. Inadequate access to healthcare facilities and timely abortion leave women with no choice but to resort to unsafe methods. In addition, the risk of being exposed to society which may pose social and cultural barriers hinders the physical and mental well-being of these ladies. Unsafe abortions are one of the leading causes of maternal death. It accounts for 4.7 to 13.2 % of deaths every year. Developing countries have 220 deaths out of every 100000 unsafe abortions. The risks associated with unsafe abortion are:

  • Hemorrhage that could lead to death.

  • Incomplete abortion and infection or sepsis.

  • Uterine perforation.

  • Damage to reproductive or vaginal organs.

Why Should Abortion Be Legalized?

Abortion laws and regulations are very restrictive and indeed a cause for stigma and distress in women. In addition, inadequate public transport forces women to travel to receive primary health care, imposing financial burdens, and prolonged waiting periods make abortion inaccessible to women in rural areas. This violates women's human rights, including the right to equality, non-discrimination, and privacy.

Legalizing abortion has been a controversial issue for a while. Individuals who condemn abortion do it on the grounds of religious, moral, or cultural reasons. However, legalizing abortion grants fundamental human rights to women who can decide for a better purpose. A few reasons why abortion should be legalized are given below:

  • It offers women the right to equality, the right to privacy, and the right to non-discrimination. Human rights allow women to choose and have control over their bodies and decide whether or not having a child is suitable for them and the child's better future. Forceful motherhood may not end well either for the mother or for the child. Parenting has to be an individual's choice and not forced upon.

  • Legalizing abortions will reduce or eliminate the need for unsafe abortion. Most women resort to unsafe practices to terminate their pregnancy as the law doesn't allow them under certain circumstances. WHO claims that by providing access to superior family planning facilities and permitting legal abortion management and good post-abortion care, unsafe abortion and its related consequences can be terminated.

  • Legalizing abortion may also reduce the mental, emotional and psychological despair in women receiving the abortion.

Will Legalizing Abortion Be Enough?

Though many countries have legalized abortion yet, is it enough? India has legalized abortion for the past 47 years, yet unsafe abortions and subsequent deaths are reported daily. Abortion in India is governed by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971, which states that abortion can be conducted only if poses a health risk to the mother or child. However, the apex court in 2022 directed that all women, regardless of their marital status, can obtain an abortion up to 24 weeks after their gestational period. Though the recent law change has emphasized women's rights, these regulations can still be prohibitive in some areas dominated by religious or other cultural trends. With not much decline in rape or marital rape cases, unsafe abortions may prevail, considering the stigma and shame. Hence government should enforce strict laws on rape and sexual crimes. Sex education should be mandatory in every school. The government and NGOs should carry out better counseling and publicize safe abortions. The government should entitle certain socioeconomic rights to single mothers to prevent them from opting for unsafe abortions.

Conclusion:

The community can benefit significantly by legalizing abortion. Unwanted and undesired pregnancies due to forced sex, rape, or violence can be traumatic. Granting them a legal, safe and respectful abortion will not only prevent unsafe practices but also shield the women's basic human rights and thus offer them individuality and justice.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

Define the Legal Age for Abortion in India.

In India, the legal age for abortion is eighteen years. A consent form is used to document the consent of the woman seeking an abortion. A woman above eighteen years can provide her own consent for an abortion. However, if a woman is below 18 years, she gives her guardian’s written permission with a specific reason for the abortion. 

2.

What Year Was Abortion Legalized in India?

Abortion became legal with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, in 1971. Further, the MTP Regulations (2003) were issued under the Act to enable married and unmarried women to avail of legal abortion services. Hence, all women have access to safe and legal abortion. However, legal abortion after a certain time of pregnancy can only be done under specific circumstances.

3.

Explain the Recent Abortion Law in India.

In 2021, MTP Amendment Act 2021 was passed with some changes to the MTP Act 1971. As a result, women are allowed safe abortion services due to contraceptive failure, an increase in pregnancy limit to 24 weeks, and the opinion of one abortion service provider up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. The new MTP Amendment Act 2021 provides abortion services on therapeutic, humanitarian, and social grounds.

4.

What Should Be the Qualification of the Doctor to Perform Abortion in India?

The practicing doctor performing an abortion must have one of the following qualifications:
- A surgeon with six months of experience in the field of obstetrics and gynecology.
- A registered medical practitioner who has performed a minimum of 25 medically assisted termination of pregnancy in India.
- A Doctor with registration before the MTP Act 1971 who has three years of experience in obstetrics and gynecology

5.

What Is the Abortion Cost in India?

Abortion refers to the deliberate termination of pregnancy, which can be done in two ways: surgical and medical. The abortion cost varies depending on the period of pregnancy, the woman's marital status, the method, and the type of anesthesia. It also depends on additional diagnostic tests. However, the cost is higher for surgical abortion.

6.

Define MTP.

MTP stands for Medical Termination of Pregnancy. In early pregnancy (7-9 weeks), one can terminate it with the help of medicine. Doctors usually recommend a pill named Mifepristone for MTP (given by injection or orally). On the other hand, if pregnancy progresses further, it requires surgical abortion.

7.

Is It Legal for a Wife to Abort without the Husband’s Consent?

According to the MTP Act 1971 and Termination of Pregnancy Rules 2003, it is not necessary for the husband’s consent during an abortion. This is especially true in emergency cases, such as bleeding. To prevent further bleeding and infection, an abortion can be conducted by a doctor. Further, such a case does not violate the code of medical ethics. 

8.

Does Insurance Cover Abortion?

Abortion is a crucial healthcare component for women. Many maternity health insurance plans cover the cost of an abortion. Also, maternity insurance plans cover the medical expenses incurred during pregnancy and childbirth. Further, some corporate-based health plans cover elective abortions.

9.

Describe Abortion under the Indian Penal Code.

In 1860, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) declared induced abortion illegal in India. Further, section 312 of the IPC termed abortion as causing miscarriage. However, it applies to a woman who carries out a miscarriage on purpose. Hence, voluntary miscarriage is criminalized under Section 312. However, abortion is legal in those cases where there is danger to the mother. On the other hand, the MTP Act is an exception to this law.

10.

Describe the Section of the IPC for Forced Abortion.

Section 313 of the IPC states out the law "miscarriage without consent." If a person causes an abortion without the consent of a pregnant woman, the person will be given life imprisonment. The imprisonment may also extend to 10 years, and liable for a fine. The offense under this section is non-bailable as there is a deliberate motive to kill the child.

11.

Does Indian Law Deny Abortion for an Unmarried Woman?

The Supreme Court of India has granted rights to unmarried women to abortion. Further, the court has made clear that the marital status of women is not a reason to access this fundamental right. Also, the benefits of the MTP Act 2021 extend to unmarried women. The limit for abortion for unmarried women in a consensual relationship is 20 weeks. 

12.

Describe the Safest Method of Abortion before 12 Weeks of Pregnancy.

Abortion is the termination of the pregnancy under medical supervision. MTP can be done by medication or surgically. Both medical and surgical methods are considered safe for abortion under 12 weeks. However, there is a small risk of retained Products of Conception (POC) in medical abortion. Hence, surgical abortion (dilatation and curettage) is simple and low-risk in this respect. 
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Dr. Richa Agarwal
Dr. Richa Agarwal

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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