Abortion in India: Taboo and Reality

By: Sanghamitra Gogoi

India has a population of 133.92 crores and the women of this country live with the age-old stigma of patriarchy that has been ingrained in them since generations. Cases like female foeticide have to lead to abortion that turned out to be life-threatening for the unborn child’s mother.

A report by Neha Madhiwala published by Indian Journal of Medical ethics states the other side of having an abortion. The report highlights abortion as something that need not be questioned by any external member other than the family. It also correctly reasons its statement saying that abortion could be due to many medical conditions, it need not be only related to female foeticide. There are cases where the parents have to go through a lot of pain and hardship only to see their child being born disabled or having some kind of disease. The parents have to live rest of their lives escaping pain and this is why most of the times abortion is a way to exist.

Also, our society is stringed in a manner where conceiving a child before marriage becomes an act of shame and taboo. This leads to an immense pressure to the parent of the unborn child thus pushing them towards taking up a major step such as abortion which is then performed by unskilled doctors in shady areas leading to loss of life of the mother in the end. Now, you might be asking yourself whether one should support abortion or completely erase the stigma surrounding it when we hear news on a daily basis regarding Doctors performing an illegal abortion. So, before we show a green signal to abortion one must be aware and be alert regarding doctors performing it. In the year 2015, the Government of India has proposed to include AYUSH (Ayurveda) Doctors and midwife to perform the abortion. You must be aware that Ayurveda is not as same as allopathy, the latter comprises of MBBS doctors with a training period of four years in surgery and medicine. The question raised here is whether AYUSH Doctors have the potential to carry critical cases such as abortion and on what grounds were they permitted? It is very important for Doctors to be fully trained because every life on this planet matters and why take the risk on our hands.

According to another report by WHO along with Guttmacher Institute, making abortion legal doesn’t mean the risk factors would be lesser, instead the statistics highlight the facts that abortion performed in a country with unrestricted laws on the subject have seen less number of risk factors, compared to countries with restricted rules and stereotypes when it comes to aborting a child. Also, researcher, Sushila Singh states that “Though the situation in India has improved in the last few years, the percentage of unsafe abortion continues to be very high in India”. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention reports that women now have many options available to stop pregnancy. We have a female condom available which can be stored inside a vagina up to eight hours before intercourse. But does this really help in preventing pregnancy? The answer is a clear No.

It is high time that we need experts in the field of abortion to carry out surgeries effectively without shedding away any lives. The doctors must be highly skilled and should be able to conduct the procedure keeping in mind the MTP Act guidelines. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Government of India in their report explains that abortion can be due to gender-biased sex determination in a patriarchal society or it could be a mutual decision by parents due to other conditions. One must be aware of the Pre- Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (2003) because this act safeguards any possible future hindrance caused due to gender-based abortion.

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