What is abortion?
Abortion means the annihilation of pregnancy by any technique either spontaneous or induced before the mother’s foetus is adequately developed to survive autonomously. As a rule, the foetus should be less than 20 weeks old from the time of pregnancy for abortion to take place.
Induced and Spontaneous Abortions
The spontaneous abortion of the foetus is medically called a miscarriage, which can take place due to a variety of reasons such hyper-tension, accident, trauma and so on and often lie beyond the prevention powers of human beings. Whereas, induced abortion is intentional termination of pregnancy. Out of approximately 35 million induced abortions that take place each year around the globe, more than half of them are illegal and executed by unqualified, untrained people and that too under highly unhygienic setting.
The Indian Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act
In order to prevent the misuse of induced abortions, most countries in the world have created strict abortion laws and so has India. As per India’s abortion laws only qualified doctors, under stipulated conditions, can execute an act of abortion on a woman in a clinic or a hospital that has been approved of doing so. The Indian abortion laws fall under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, which was enacted by the Indian Parliament in the year 1971. The MTP Act, however, came into effect from 01 April, 1972 and was once amended in 1975.
Grounds for Abortion as per the Indian MTP Act
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of India clearly mentions the conditions under which only a pregnancy can be ended or the foetus aborted, the persons who are qualified to conduct the abortion and the place of implementation. The grounds, thus, for conducting an abortion as interpreted from the Indian MTP Act are:
1. A pregnancy may be terminated by a registered medical practitioner,-
(a) where the length of the pregnancy does not exceed twelve weeks if such medical practitioner is Of opinion, formed in good faith, that,-
(i) 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
(ii) 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
However, when the pregnancy exceeds 12 weeks but is below 20 weeks, the consultation of two registered medical practitioners is required.
2. A pregnancy occurring as a result of rape
3. Failure of contraceptive device used by a couple.
Consent of the following kinds is required before a legal abortion by an approved practitioner can be conducted on a pregnant female:
- If married--- her own written consent. Husband’s consent not needed.
- If unmarried and above 18years ---her own written consent.
- If below 18 years ---written consent of her guardian.
- If mentally unstable --- written consent of her guardian.
Physicians approved for conducting MTP are:
- A qualified registered medical practitioner who has helped in 25 MTPs.
- A house surgeon who has undergone six months post in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
- A person who has a diploma /degree in Obstetrics and Gynecology.
- Three years of practice in Obstetrics and Gynecology for those doctors registered before the 1971 MTP Act was passed.
- A year of practice in Obstetrics and Gynecology for the doctors registered on or after the date of commencement of the Act.