Is Abortion Legal in India?

Is Abortion Legal in India?

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971 specifies the law relating to abortion in India. The law defines abortion as the untimely termination of the foetus. There is a specified legal period for getting an abortion in India. When you get your pregnancy terminated after this specified time, it is called foeticide (killing a foetus), a punishable offence.

When discussing the legality of abortions in India, you may have several questions in mind, such as:

  1. Are abortions legal in India?
  2. Can unmarried girls legally abort the foetus?
  3. Can rape victims legally abort the foetus?
  4. Who can perform an abortion?

Carefully read the blog below to get answers to all these questions. But first, let’s understand the abortion laws in India. 

What is an abortion?

Abortion is the deliberate termination of pregnancy that can be done either medically or surgically. 

  1. Medical Abortion: A medical abortion is performed when a woman is pregnant for less than seven weeks. It is a non-surgical method in which the doctor prescribes two pills to terminate the pregnancy. 
  2. Surgical Abortion: A surgical abortion is performed when a woman wants an abortion after seven weeks of pregnancy. 

What are the Abortion Laws in India?

The abortion laws govern the legality of abortions in India. These laws include:-

  1. Indian Penal Code: The Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with miscarriage under sections 312 to 316. It states when an abortion is illegal and a punishable offence under the law. According to the law, a person who voluntarily causes a woman with a child to miscarry without saving the woman’s life will be imprisoned for up to three years, punished with a fine, or both.  
  2. Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act: The act deals with the provisions of abortion laws in India. According to the MTP Act 1971, a pregnancy can be terminated up to 20 weeks (about five months), provided it has a doctor's approval. A qualified doctor performs it at a recognised medical institution. The new Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Act 2021 has increased the upper limit of pregnancy termination from 20 to 24 weeks for women with foetal abnormalities or rape victims. However, the act does not approve of sex-selective abortions.

Who Can Perform an Abortion?

The termination of pregnancy can be done in hospitals with a Government-issued license to perform medically assisted abortions in India. The doctor who performs the abortion must be qualified in one of the following:

  1. A Registered Medical Practitioner (RMP) with an experience of at least 25 medically assisted abortions in India
  2. A surgeon with six months of experience in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  3. A person with a degree or diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology

What is the Punishment for Committing an Illegal Abortion?

If the abortion does not fulfil the conditions directed by the abortion law in India, it is considered a crime. 

  1. Voluntarily causing a miscarriage under 4 to 5 months: Unless the abortion is done in good faith to save the mother’s life, both the mother and the doctor will face a penalty of unlawful abortion up to three years imprisonment and a fine. 
  2. Voluntarily causing a miscarriage over five months: If an abortion is performed when a woman is quick with the child (the foetus starts moving), the penalty increases. Unless committed to saving the mother’s life, the mother and doctor will be punished with seven years imprisonment and a fine. 
  3. Abortion without the mother’s consent: If someone else forces the mother to have an abortion or performs one without her consent, such a person may face up to ten years imprisonment with a fine. While a woman does not need a spouse’s consent to undergo an abortion, the spouse cannot force the woman for an abortion. 
  4. Abortion leading to death: If the mother dies due to an abortion performed by an unskilled doctor, the doctor may face up to ten years imprisonment and a fine. Furthermore, the doctor may face life imprisonment if the abortion is conducted without the mother’s consent. 

Takeaway

Even after legalising abortion in India, women still face social stigma regarding abortion decisions. Lack of social support is one of the top reasons for women opting for unsafe abortions. According to the State of the World Population Report 2022, unsafe abortions are India’s third leading cause of maternal mortality. Therefore, you must consult your healthcare professional and opt for a safe and legal abortion performed by a qualified doctor. 

You can contact an expert Gynaecologist at HexaHealth to discuss your queries and concerns regarding the abortion procedure. Our experienced doctors will help you with a safe abortion performed per Indian abortion laws.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is abortion permitted for unmarried girls in India?

India's legal abortion age is 18 years old for girls who are not married. Unmarried women at least 18 years old may give their written consent to have an abortion. If a woman is under 18, she must provide written consent. Her legal guardian must give this permission and include a specific justification for the pregnancy's termination

Is abortion for rape victims permitted in India?

One of the worst crimes against women is rape. It affects women not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. As a result, India allows abortions for rape victims. Here, rape victims may petition the High court or Supreme court directly to terminate the pregnancy and request a permitted abortion in India.

Who is authorised by law to perform abortions in India?

Every medical facility is granted a government-issued licence that can provide medically assisted abortions in India. They must show an issuing certificate.

What are the requirements of a medical practitioner who can conduct an abortion?

To perform an abortion, the doctor must have one of the following skills:

  1. A licenced doctor performed at least 25 cases of medically assisted pregnancy termination in India.
  2. A surgeon with six months of obstetrics and gynaecology expertise.
  3. A physician who was licenced before the MTP Act of 1971 and had three years of obstetrics and gynaecology experience

Do my parents have to approve of the abortion?

No, you don't need the approval of your parents if you want to abort your pregnancy if you are over 18. You often need your parent's or guardian's permission if you are a minor.

Why did MTP, 1971 have a 20-week bar for termination of pregnancy?

According to the MTP Act 1971, abortions were done only till 20 weeks after conception. There was a bar of 20 weeks to stop gender prediction testing and, as a result, sex-selective abortions, which could only be performed after the 20-week mark.

What limitations on the use of MTP have the Indian government imposed?

Female foeticides committed illegally are prevalent in India. This number has only risen after sex determination was introduced. The Indian government has restricted addressing this problem and stopped MTP as a means to know the gender of the baby.

How is an abortion done?

The termination of a pregnancy by medical or surgical means is known as an abortion. It can be done in two ways:

  1. Medical Abortion: The doctor will give you two medications to end the pregnancy as a non-surgical option.
  2. Surgical Abortion: In a surgical abortion, the pregnancy is surgically removed through the vagina.

When is abortion permissible for women and couples?

Women or couples may decide to terminate a pregnancy at any point during the gestation period. If there is a foetal deformity, they can terminate as determined by the Medical Boards.

What is the penalty for unlicensed medical practitioners under the MTP Act?

A person who terminates a pregnancy without a doctor's licence is guilty of a crime with a strict jail sentence that cannot be less than two years or more than seven years.

Do I need my husband's consent before having an abortion?

No, Indian law regards conception, pregnancy, and abortion as the woman's sole, inviolable rights, as stated by the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971. This is why it is illegal for a doctor to ask your husband's consent for an abortion if you are over 18, your pregnancy has not yet reached its maximum gestational length, and you are otherwise in good health.

Can a person under the age of 18 receive an abortion?

Yes, if the legal requirements are met, a girl under 18 may have an abortion. But in this case, the permission of her guardian is required.

Is abortion prohibited after the 24-week window?

By law, it is not. You may, however, go to court if necessary. However, such a request needs to be justified. Due to major foetal malformations or risks to the mother's health, the Supreme Court permit abortions after the 24-week mark. SC has also turned down requests where there was no danger to the mother's or the fetus's lives.

Do I have privacy protection?

Yes, it is purely confidential. Your information is safeguarded according to the most recent update to the MTP Law.

Is there any difference between Emergency Contraceptive (EC) and Medical Abortion pills?

Emergency Contraceptive is a method of birth control which stops pregnancy following unprotected sex. After unprotected sex, it can be taken for up to five days. EC doesn't end a pregnancy and is ineffective during pregnancy. EC is a product that can be bought openly. A pregnancy is ended by medication abortion. A registered medical practitioner could prescribe it up to nine weeks into pregnancy. Contrary to EC, medical abortion pills can only be prescribed by a healthcare professional; it is not available over the counter.

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