Accessible abortion

Safe abortion services should be made a reality for women in our country

In India, the liberalisation of law to facilitate access to safe abortion services began in 1964, under the aegis of the Shantilal Shah Committee. Doctors frequently came across women who had taken recourse to unsafe abortions, because of legal barriers.

Under the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, both the woman and the abortionist could be punished, unless the pregnancy posed a grave threat to the life of the woman. After an exhaustive review of national and international evidence, the committee submitted its recommendations in 1966 for legalising abortion.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, passed almost five decades ago, put India in the league of 15 other countries to legalise induced abortion for a broad range of conditions. However, even today, unsafe abortion is the third largest cause of maternal mortality in India, leading to the death of 10 women each day and thousands more facing life-long disabilities. In 2017, we are once again at a point when, despite having a liberal abortion law, women face numerous challenges in accessing the same. There is a solution ready before our Parliament in the form of the MTP (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The government is committed to women’s empowerment and is taking various steps in this direction. The ability to exercise reproductive rights is an integral component of women’s empowerment and we are awaiting the day these amendments make safe abortion services a reality for women in the country.