“She got two abortions in two years. Can you believe it? She won’t be able to conceive now. Do her parents know she lives with a boy?” asked my mother in a hushed tone, not showing concern for this girl but curiously trying to know the opinion of her ‘defaulter’ child over an issue which is supposed to be kept a secret.
Abortion is seldom talked about in our society, especially when it is linked to an unmarried woman. I wish I could paint the walls of Delhi with crimson hue reading: IT IS LEGAL FOR AN UNMARRIED WOMAN TO GET AN ABORTION IN INDIA WITHOUT BEING HARASSED BY ANYONE.
Abortion laws were introduced in India to reduce the incidences of unsafe abortions performed by quacks, who, even though mistrusted, are preferred when it comes to abortion. According to a large-scale study conducted by the Lancet in 2015, of 15. 6 million abortions in 2015, 78% were done using unsafe methods. Using abortion pills was the most common technique adopted, which made up 81% of all the unsafe abortions.
In order to understand this, one must understand the abortion laws in our country. Under the law, abortion is defined as an untimely termination of a foetus, conceived with or without the knowledge of the couple, married or unmarried. Two types of abortions can be carried out depending upon the time that has elapsed. A woman who is less than 7 weeks pregnant, can abort the child with the help of pills and medications. This a non-surgical method and pills should always be taken under the supervision of a physician. Medical terminations, if performed under unsafe and unhygienic conditions, or by an unskilled practitioner, can lead to infection or even death in some cases. It is your body and your reproductive health is your RIGHT.
To know the law is to know your rights. Abortion is legal in India and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, permits it after consultation with one doctor upto 12 weeks. If the pregnancy exceeds 12 weeks, it can still be performed up to 20 weeks with the assent of two medical practitioners. Beyond 20 weeks, there are still legal provisions to allow termination if a woman has a serious disease or if her physical or mental health in endangered by the pregnancy.
But, the concern is harassment of an unmarried woman at the hands of the medical practitioners, who, rather than informing about her rights over her body, mislead her into thinking that she can’t abort if she is unmarried and must also be accompanied by a guardian or her partner. This is an outright lie and that is why every girl should know about the laws related to her own body.
A woman who is unmarried and over 18 can legally provide her own written consent to get an abortion. If a woman is unmarried and under 18, she must provide written consent from her guardian. In the absence of any of these conditions or permissions, abortion is illegal in India under the MTP Act, 1971.
A girl must know the laws related to the body because that is the only thing she governs a full right over in this patriarchal society.