ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
-A A +A

Need to Amend MTP Act

The fact, that on an average 10 women die every day in India due to unsafe abortion procedures, as quoted in the editorial (“Right to Safe Abortion Care,” EPW, 4 March 2017) is alarming for a transitioning country like India. The deliberations over amending the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 reflect the changing scenario and urgent need for an act which could address the present situation. The right to abortion has both legal as well as sociocultural implications. In normal conditions, the termination of pregnancy is not so complicated.

The fact, that on an average 10 women die every day in India due to unsafe abortion procedures, as quoted in the editorial (“Right to Safe Abortion Care,” EPW, 4 March 2017) is alarming for a transitioning country like India. The deliberations over amending the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, 1971 reflect the changing scenario and urgent need for an act which could address the present situation. The right to abortion has both legal as well as sociocultural implications. In normal conditions, the termination of pregnancy is not so complicated. However, in exceptional cases, especially when a rape victim wants to terminate her pregnancy, it is an entirely different issue as it entails mental trauma and social stigma.

It is alarming that a rape survivor is unable to abort despite the explicit consent of the woman and her family members. It is difficult to understand that on the one hand, the girl is held responsible for her plight, and on the other, the system is such that she is forced to carry the pregnancy to term. The medical report may be justified on the grounds that termination at the given stage of pregnancy may be lethal for the girl, but it should also be noticed that if the girl’s age is less than 18 years it may be lethal for her. The kinds of problems a rape survivor would have to face by giving birth at a premature age are unimaginable. Sometimes, the rape victims’ requests for abortion at an earlier stage would have been possible to act on, but for the lengthy and lackadaisical approach of the officials and delays to the extent that it becomes difficult to abort.

In a society where victim-blaming is rampant, it is not rational for justice-delivery mechanisms to follow the same lines and thereby reinforce the patriarchal mentality. In such cases, society is often eager to outcaste the victim and her family, if and when she gives birth to the child. On the other hand, the system does not allow her to abort, exposing the hypocrisy of our society. The person responsible for all this is free from moral obligations as well as systemic agonies, as well as escaping punishment more often than not. He would likely return to a life of prosperity, an avenue sparingly available to the victim. It is time that the redressal system be restructured to favour the victim, and not the culprit. The MTP Act which allows termination up to 20 weeks of gestation, or five months of pregnancy, needs to be amended, at least, for rape victims where pregnancy causes a mental and social trauma for victims.

In the Nikita Mehta case, where the foetus’s severe abnormality was detected only after 20 weeks of conception, the Supreme Court denied her request and finally she had a miscarriage. This kind of apathy may force victims towards unsafe abortions and it may add to the already horrible phenomenon of maternal deaths, where every two hours one woman dies of abortion-related causes. Globally many countries allow abortion anytime during pregnancy, including for reasons such as economic and social obstacles. The present MTP Act does not even permit abortions on the request of a woman. State authorities must understand that for women, pregnancy is not just a medical condition, but is a matter of rights over one’s body, honour and dignity. These rights need to be recognised and accepted in all conditions and at every level of pregnancy.

Supriya Singh

University of Lucknow,

Lucknow

 

Updated On : 17th Mar, 2017

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top