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Here’s everything you need to know about getting an abortion in India

Published on:21 July 2020, 19:57pm IST
Getting an abortion in India is not just about finding the right course of medical action, but also learning to navigate the laws and stigma around it.
Grace Bains
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Getting an abortion in India isn’t as simple as popping a few pills. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Abortion, in simple terms, refers to the termination of a pregnancy. However, any woman will tell you that from a physical and mental point of view, the basic definition doesn’t even begin to capture just how tough it can be.

Couple that with the fact that we, as a society, are still coming to terms with how women have a right to decide what to do with their bodies, opting for abortion is still surrounded by societal taboo.

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The truth is that whether you should opt for an abortion or not is purely based on your individual decision. But in case an unwanted pregnancy occurs, it is advisable that you reach out to a government registered clinic or hospital with qualified and experienced doctors.

When it comes to the medical process, you have three options:

1. The oral method
An abortion can be carried out by this method using certain pills if your pregnancy is less than six weeks. The medicine should only be consumed under medical supervision. You will start bleeding in a couple of hours and hence, an abortion will take place. It can cause severe cramping and the bleeding can last for a couple of days.

Hence, it is advisable that you take off from work for some time in order to manage the bleeding and recover. Do visit the nearest doctor or hospital if you experience symptoms such as heavy bleeding, dizziness, sweating, and unbearable discomfort.

miscarriage
The abortion pills block the body’s processes required to sustain a pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

2. The suction method
This is used till you’re in the first trimester which is 12 weeks, or early part of the second trimester which is 16 weeks. Gentle suction is used in order to pull out the fetus from your uterus. The process in itself doesn’t take too much time but you may have to stay at the hospital or clinic in order to make sure the abortion is complete and you’re safe.

3. Dilation and evacuation (D&E) method
This method is employed once you’ve reached your second trimester. It requires for your cervix to be dilated so as to make the abortion possible. Once dilated, the doctor will use forceps to remove the fetus from your body which will bring about an end to the pregnancy. This procedure might cause pain and discomfort. Hence, ensure that you take proper rest after it to recover.

Abortion in India is also surrounded by some laws
To understand the legality of abortion in India, we spoke to Madhuri Bakshi, Advocate and Chairperson Local Complaints Committee (LCC), Faridabad. She says:

“As per Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 (MTP), legal abortions are performed only under certain conditions—where the continuation of pregnancy poses any risk to the life of the mother, causes a grave injury to her physical or mental health, if the foetus has any severe abnormalities, in cases where pregnancies arise out of sexual assault or rape and/or in case of pregnancy has occurred as a result of contraception failure.”

“The major shortcoming in the MTP is that the termination of pregnancy beyond 20 weeks is only allowed when it is necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman and not when there exists a severe foetal abnormality. However, recently, amendments have been proposed to MTP which seeks to remove the upper gestational limit for abortion in case of a fetal abnormality diagnosed by the medical board,” she adds.

Unwanted pregnancy
The current legality in India doesn’t allows abortion, but only under certain circumstances. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

We also spoke to Aarnima Shah, an advocate, who shared with us the highlight of the upcoming amendments to MTP:

“The year 2020 has brought about a welcome change with the passing of MTP Bill in the Lok Saba. This Bill has aligned India with the most progressive countries in terms of protection of the reproductive rights of women. Under the new law, the right to medical termination of pregnancy has been increased to a period of 24 weeks. Termination of pregnancy can be carried out in the following manner:

  • Up to 20 weeks: The medical opinion of a registered medical practitioner is required
  • Between 20 -24 weeks: The medical opinion of two medical practitioners in cases of pregnancy due to rape, incest, and for differently-abled women and minors is required
  • No upper limit has been set for abortion in cases of fetal abnormalities diagnosed by a Medical Board.

    Apart from the above amendments, the new law also recognizes the failure of contraceptives as a medically valid reason for abortion for not only married women and but also for unmarried women.

    “It should be noted that under the new law, protection of the privacy of a woman with regards to her name and medical history is paramount and any disclosure of such details by a medical practitioner is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and fine,” she explains.

    “Although the changes to the MTP are welcome, it is worth mentioning that abortion laws in India are still at a nascent stage. A comprehensive dialogue is needed to provide autonomy to women over their bodies as well as reduce social stigma and provide proper education on the subject,” concludes Aarnima.

    All in all, getting an abortion in India isn’t that simple
    It’s safe to say that abortion in India is legal, but only under certain circumstances. However, the real challenge for women who want to abort also lies in finding the right medical guidance that comes minus any judgement.

    We hope this guide has been helpful. Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

1 Comment

  1. Insightful peice of writing! Facts and arguments shared by Advocate Aarnima are especially eye opening.

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Grace Bains Grace Bains

Grace is someone who likes writing enough to make a living out of it. When she isn’t writing, you will find her having chai and reading a book.