“Savita law“—a father has asked for it after he lost his daughter because of the prohibition of abortion in Ireland.
Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist died on October 28, 2012, at University Hospital Galway, due to the complications of a septic miscarriage at 17 weeks’ gestation. It took seven days to unfold, and early in the process, when it was clear that the miscarriage was inevitable, Savita requested an abortion. At that time the medical team had not diagnosed her with a blood infection, and her request was denied.
Little did they know that her life was actually in danger. Her death caused controversy at the time, nationally and internationally, leading to protests and marches. This happened because of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws. But at last the country voted to change these laws in a public referendum. Ireland’s Indian-origin Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who campaigned in favour of liberalisation, said it was “a historic day for Ireland,” and that a “quiet revolution” had taken place and it would be enacted by end of year.
The historic abortion vote has been in the news and won the hearts of millions around the world. Late but not last, as we say. Halappanavar’s father states “We got justice and that what happened to Savita will not happen to any family now,” because he knows the change is going to save many lives. He says he is “very happy” at the result of Ireland’s referendum.
With that, I ask you, do you know facts about laws on abortion in India? Abortion is legal in India. The abortion laws falls under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTP) which was enacted by the Indian Parliament in the year 1971 with the intention of reducing the incidence of illegal abortion and consequent maternal mortality and morbidity.
However, there was a survey which was conducted in 2007 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that suggests only 22.9% of men, and 28% of women were aware that medical abortions are possible and available! A large number of people still remain unaware that by law, they have the right to access abortions in India. So next time you meet someone smash their misconceptions with your knowledge of abortion rights in India. But before that do read the special conditions where abortion is permitted.
At times when we feel like we need adult supervision for abortion or we need parents or spouse supervision, you can thank the universe for being an adult! As an adult person, when it comes to seeking safe abortion access in India, you do not need anyone else’s permission. The Act recognises the personhood of a woman and respects her rights as an adult person in India. With the act you can take up the advantage of not seeking permission from anyone.
In India there is big sigma attached to single unmarried women being pregnant. Judgemental eyes, and humiliation automatically falls on you, which kinda sucks. But ladies, the conditions mentioned in the MTP Act also covers single unmarried adult women—except for one clause reserved for married women which is abortion because of contraceptive failure. For all other reasons listed above, single women can access abortions. It is mostly because of the stigma associated with being a single woman that some service providers stigmatise abortions being sought by them.
Knowing this information, and sharing it with others, can change the way we view abortion and reproductive health rights in our country.