Can doctors deny abortion for unmarried women?


There is no strictly a yes or no answer to this question. Abortion is legal in India according to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971. Any woman, married or unmarried, can get an abortion in India. However, the realities are far removed from what is written in the law.

Before we delve into the details, you need to understand that not all doctors nor all hospitals and clinics in India are allowed to give abortions. According to the MTP Act, 1971 only Registered Medical Practitioners (RMP) are allowed to give abortion. They are the doctors who have completed the training and fulfilled the requirements of conducting a set number of abortions as part of their training. Also, only those hospitals and clinics (government as well as private) which are registered as Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) centres can give an abortion. 

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What is the deal with one doctor and two doctors for abortion?

Depending on which week of pregnancy you are in, there are legal requirements to be fulfilled to get an abortion.

If you are under 12 weeks of pregnancy, then the opinion of one doctor is needed for the abortion.

If you are between 12 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, then the opinion of two doctors is needed for the abortion. This does not mean two doctors will be giving you an abortion. 

The opinions of the doctor are recorded in designated forms which are filed as documentation proof. 

Why do doctors deny abortion for unmarried women?

These are completely dependent on the doctors. Many refuse to give abortion due to their personal beliefs. However, some of them are okay with giving abortions to married women. For unmarried women, they tend to hold prejudices and judgments. 

Why do doctors charge so much for abortion?

Many unmarried women are misled by some doctors that abortion is illegal for unmarried women. These doctors manipulate the explanations of the MTP Act and create the impression that they are okay to do an illegal act for unmarried women because they “understand” her situation. 

Such doctors charge an eye-watering amount as a consultation fee. If the abortion is done by using medical abortion pills, they charge a high amount for giving the pills too (even though in a pharmacy these pills are sold at the standard market price. But a prescription is needed to get these pills). If the abortion is surgical, then the billing is according to the whims and fancies of the doctors. Basically, an unmarried woman has to pay a bomb to get an abortion done because the doctors make her believe that the amount is justified as they are doing something bypassing the law. 

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What does the law state exactly about who can get an abortion?

The MTP Act 1971, says that a woman can get an abortion up to 20 weeks of her pregnancy under the following conditions:

  • When the continuation of the pregnancy is a risk to the life of a pregnant woman or could cause grave injury to her physical or mental health;
  • When there is a substantial risk that the child, if born or dead would be seriously handicapped due to physical or mental abnormalities;
  • When pregnancy is caused due to rape (presumed to cause grave injury to the mental health of the woman);
  • When pregnancy is caused due to failure of contraceptives used by a married woman or her husband (presumed to constitute a grave injury to the mental health of the woman).

As you have noticed there is no clear-cut declaration about unmarried women in the law. This ambiguous nature of the law about unmarried women is a drawback of the MTP Act, 1971. However, it is widely accepted that doctors can give abortion to unmarried women under the justification that continuing the pregnancy can cause grave injury to the mental health of the pregnant women. 

[If you also have any other questions or doubts about periods, pregnancy, abortion, or your sexuality, please talk to us. We will immediately help you. Talk to us by clicking on this Whatsapp chat button: header wp icon ]

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