About Time We Saw Abortion as a Human Necessity
It is really troubling if we bring ourselves to think of the difficult times a woman goes through, when posed with the challenge of an unplanned baby growing in her womb. Add to this the fact that abortion is illegal in most countries and is viewed as a horrendous act by many in the society. But is it not an under-thought sentiment when a “third-person” challenges a woman’s choice of whether to have that baby or not?
In 2008, a couple from Bhayander, Maharashtra, had approached the Mumbai High Court, seeking permission to abort the fetus during her 24th week of pregnancy. In 2008, a couple from Bhayander, Maharashtra, had approached the Mumbai High Court, seeking permission to abort the fetus during her 24th week of pregnancy. The court had rejected her plea and Niketa, the mother of the child, later suffered miscarriage.The court had rejected her plea and Niketa, the mother of the child, later suffered miscarriage. This triggered a nationwide debate on the subject and many Indian women stepped up to question the soundness of the then existing abortion laws in the country.
You see, pro-life supporters, or those who stand against abortion, often fail to view the act of abortion from the eyes of the mother needing it. They don’t regard it as a medically necessary condition. Such people stand by their implication that a woman’s choice should be inclined towards refraining from having unprotected sex, and not hinge on the choice of whether they can abort an unplanned child or not.
Is an outsider’s judgemental stance enough to understand the fear and insecurity a woman feels when she anticipates an unplanned baby and the sea of responsibilities that comes with it?
In another debate, pro-abortion activists shed light on cases of rape and incest, which is sadly quite common in our country, and where the option of abortion must undoubtedly be presented to the haplesss victims such crimes. Pro-choice activists also stand by their stance that accidents do tend to happen, and in such cases, a woman must not be pushed to take on the severe consequences single-handedly.
According to the statistics presented by the Guttmacher Institute, by the time women are in their mid-40s, nearly 50% of all women have had to face the challenge of unforeseen pregnancy. In 2008, a couple from Bhayander, Maharashtra, had approached the Mumbai High Court, seeking permission to abort the fetus during her 24th week of pregnancy. The court had rejected her plea and Niketa, the mother of the child, later suffered miscarriage.And among those who have had an abortion, 58% were observed to be in their 20’s. These are the years when women are most sexually active, and often is the case when their male partners are not prepared to raise a child, offering little or no support for their women in need. How hard must it be for a woman in such a situation to cope with the challenges alone and prepare for the long, tough times she is about to face? How fair is it to snatch her options in such a case?
Let’s take a moment to view the situation rationally, shall we? Legal restrictions in abortion aren’t actually helping the situation, since many women are resorting to home abortion techniques, which tend to come with a series of health risks. In 2008 alone, approximately 6.5 million abortions were conducted across India, two-thirds of which were carried out using unsafe methods. In another shocking study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute a few years ago, 13% of all maternal deaths in the South and Central Asian regions (combined) were the result of unsafe abortions. Considering this, will we not be punishing both, the baby and its mother, by not allowing the latter to undo the child growing in her womb, under adverse conditions?
But why do Indian women turn to unsafe methods when abortion is legal in India?
The laws on abortion are relatively quite accommodating in India, bound by only a few clauses that are still pretty much liberal when you come to think of it.
A Medically Terminated Pregnancy (MTP) is allowed up to 20 weeks in India, while proceedings are on to further this period to up to 24 weeks.
- If a woman is married, her own written consent is sufficient. Her husband’s consent is not required.
- If a woman is unmarried and over 18, she can provide her own written consent.
- If a woman is unmarried and under 18, she must provide written consent from her guardian.
- If a woman is mentally unstable, she must provide written consent from her guardian.
And yet, a vast majority of Indian women opt for unsafe abortions. Why? It’s the Indian society that has a long way to go when it comes to accepting this basic choice that should be available to any sexually active woman. Indian women needing abortions are subject to heavy society-induced shame. The concept of abortion in India comes but as a taboo topic.
It seems the legal system in India is doing everything it can to help genuine cases, while trying to curb the number of unwanted abortions. However, Indian women are still finding it difficult to talk about abortion and seek expert advice on the matter. This may be traced back to our cultural history surrounding sex-selective abortions, where millions of female fetuses have been and are still, to a considerable extent, being aborted in India.
Can’t we agree on the fact that robbing a woman of her liberty to take her own decisions in critical situations like these amounts to robbing her of her freedom to exercise reproductive responsibility as an adult? Where the laws are liberal, the society isn’t. Aren’t we being a little hypocritical here? It’s time we thought for ourselves, place ourselves in the shoes of such a hapless woman, and keep away from orthodox, biased sentiments to converge on a rational, objective opinion on the matter.
So, should reproduction be a happy choice – or a forced one? Are you pro-choice or pro-life?
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