There seems to be a lot of general misconception or lack of clarity about getting a Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) or an abortion in India. Many women aren’t aware that it is legal in India to get a pregnancy terminated. It is important for women to know what is and is not a right with respect to getting an abortion. Here’s a list of 10 things that you might not know about getting an abortion in India:
1. Abortion is legal in India
Abortion or medical termination of pregnancy is legally permitted under certain circumstances up to twenty weeks of pregnancy. According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971, pregnancy may be terminated under certain circumstances. This includes
- Physical or mental risk to the health of the pregnant woman
- Failure of contraception in case of married women
- Chances of disability of any kind to the child
2. Woman has the right to say yes or no to an abortion
Even though abortion is legal, MTP Act does not confer the right to terminate a pregnancy on demand, she can choose to say no to a forced abortion. She has the right to continue with the pregnancy and have the child. No one can force her to get an abortion. Now that is a punishable offence says the MTP Act!
3. You need only your consent to get an abortion
If you are a pregnant woman who wants to get an abortion, remember that only you need your consent to get an abortion. If you are above 18 years of age, you need no one else’s permission to get an abortion. If the doctor or personnel in any hospital asks for your parent or husband’s consent, let them know that it is your body and your right.
4. Pregnancy can be terminated till 20 weeks of pregnancy
The MTP Act allows for any pregnancy to be terminated within 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, in January 2017, the Supreme Court had granted permission to a rape survivor to terminate her pregnancy at 24 weeks since the foetus was found to not have a head. It is worth noting that an amendment drafted in 2014 sought to increase the pregnancy termination limit to 24 weeks from the present 20 weeks.
5. Every termination of pregnancy may not be a foeticide
The termination of a pregnancy is a foeticide only if it is done after a sex determination test. The PCPNDT Act was passed in 1994 to prevent female foeticide based on sex determination tests. Only if an abortion is proven to be done due to a sex determination test, it becomes a punishable offence.
6. Sex determination may not be possible with 12 weeks of pregnancy
Here’s the thing with sex determination test, the PCPNDT Act punishes the technician who performs the test. Usually, sex of the foetus cannot be determined within 12 weeks of pregnancy. So an abortion done with 12 weeks of pregnancy cannot be pinned on sex selection. That said, forcing a woman to do a sex selection is a punishable offence.
7. Only a Registered Medical Practioner (RMP) can do abortion
It is important to get any pregnancy terminated by a Registered Medical Practioner. This may seem like a trivial detail when you are looking to get an abortion. But it is something that is to be taken quite seriously considering that unsafe abortion could leave to several complications. The MTP Act prescribes the requirements for any doctor to become a Registered Medical Practioner. This involves several levels of rigorous training to ensure that the doctor is well qualified to their job. Hence it is important to get an abortion done only from a Registered Medical Practioner.
8. Abortion can be done only in a government hospital or District Level Committee approved place
Similar to the need for Registered Medical Practioner to perform an abortion, it is also necessary to get an abortion in a government approved hospital. A pregnancy can be terminated only in a government hospital or a hospital approved by a District Level Committee set up for this purpose. If you are unsure about where to get an abortion, head to the nearest government hospital to avoid any complications that may arise to due to unsafe abortion.
9. Abortion is not a right
Getting an abortion may be legal in India, however it is not a right that women have. What does this mean? It means that you cannot get an abortion on demand, which means that a woman cannot ask to be aborted by a doctor. It can be got only for one of the reasons stated above.
10. Doctor can refuse to perform an abortion on any woman
Considering that abortion is not a right in India, any doctor may refuse to terminate a pregnancy. For instance, the woman may mention risk to physical or mental health as a reason for requesting a termination of her pregnancy. However unless the doctor sees that to be a real risk, they can refuse to terminate the pregnancy.
To listen more on this issue, check out our podcast where Jasmine George, a lawyer and sexual and reproductive health advocate discusses MTP Act with us.