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Last week, #Modi govt told the Supreme Court that women don’t have absolute right to terminate pregnancy. I spoke to several urban, rural single women in 2013 & find out how common #abortions are. A moralistic lens pushes women to endanger their lives.

In India, a woman dies every two hours because she’s had an unsafe abortion, according to Ipas. I found out that lack of responsibility and sensitisation of the male partner was one of the main reasons for women to be clandestine about their situation and take the unsafe route.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act came into effect in 1972 in India. The Act permits abortion if the doctor believes “in good faith” that “…the continuance of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury to her physical...
...or mental health; or there is a substantial risk that if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped”.
So, onus lies on the woman to prove how it will harm her physically or mentally. It is implied that married women must state contraceptive failure & single women must state coercion or rape as a reason for pregnancy. Merely stating that it is an #unwantedpregnancy is not enough.
The MTP Act fails to define terms like “abortion”, “miscarriage”, “termination of pregnancy”, “health”, “substantial risk”, & “seriously handicapped”, making the doctor’s opinion sacrosanct. According to a study, 76 % of the women who come for first-time #abortions are unmarried.
Statistics of one survey show that about 21% of males & 4 % of females in rural areas admitted to #premaritalsex against an urban figure of 11% of males and 2% of females. These are conservative figures.
So 'premarital sex' is a reality. And it is not just young women who are participants in it. India, with more than 50 % population under the age of 25, cant be serious when they deny women the absolute right to do what they want with their bodies.
“It is evident that women’s right to control their sexuality, fertility and reproduction were not the basis on which the MTP Act was formulated or interpreted. As a result, no govt ever initiated programs to make single women aware that they have a legal right to abortion.”
Bestowing personhood on the foetus is a popular tool of #prolife crusaders in the West. Indian politicians are not far behind. In 2012, Maha health minister Suresh Shetty wanted to propose application of murder charges on those, iinvolved in forced abortions of female foetus.
With 66 per cent of abortions in India being illegal, the confusion between the PCPNDT Act for sex-selective abortion and the MTP Act which legalises abortion ends up restricting many young women's lives.
In 2007, a sessions court in Punjab observed that a woman’s decision to undergo an abortion without her husband’s consent amounted to cruelty and granted divorce to a man who alleged his “figure-conscious” wife did not inform him before terminating her pregnancy.
The court’s order declared her abortion as “illegal” even though a woman is entitled to an abortion without her husband’s permission under the Act.
Sensitise women but senstise men too?
“A friend’s boyfriend debated with her on the method of abortion when she was pregnant recounting how his previous girlfriend who got pregnant adopted another method, not realising an absolute lack of empathy.”
Most health insurance companies in India, except employees of the organised sector, the ESIS, CGHS, and the Railway Health Scheme, do not cover the cost of abortion.
The morning-after pills sales have increased by 250 per cent in India. "iPills are pushed as an easy way to avoid pregnancy. Men coax women into having unprotected sex. The ads further patriarchal values by allowing men to assume positions of power within a sexual relationship.”
The MTP (Amendment) Bill, 2019, is currently pending with the law ministry for vetting. So hope #Modi govt will not take Indian women back to a puritanical age. (n/n)
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