Unfulfilled commitment

The landmark Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971 legalised abortion in India at a time when it was legal in only 15 countries across the world. By bringing out this Act, the government made a commitment to make abortions available, safe and confidential to the women of our country. While the Act does not lay down abortion as a woman’s right, it includes “failure of contraception” (in addition to medical and socioeconomic reasons) as a valid indication for availing an abortion, making the choice fairly universal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. There have been significant transformations in the technological and public health landscape for improving access to safe abortion services in line with the original vision. As a way forward, there are at least two big areas that need to be worked upon to improve the care-seeking pattern for abortion. First is the need to provide an environment for women to openly talk about their abortion needs. Second, the need to increase availability of CAC services. A big step towards this will be the passage of the suggested amendments to the current MTP Act.