All You Need To Know About Getting An Abortion In India

Posted: July 10, 2017

If you are looking for details about getting an abortion in India, this article will tell you how to go about it safely and legally.

As joyful as it may be, bringing new life in to this world is also a huge long term commitment. So an unexpected pregnancy can, sometimes, be a frightening situation.

There may be numerous reasons why you may want to terminate the pregnancy. It is an unhappy situation, but to come through with your health, dignity and life intact, here are a few things you must know. In India, abortions are governed by the Medical Termination Of Pregnancy (MTP) act.

Where can you get an abortion in India?

For a safe and legal abortion you have to have it done by a registered medical practitioner (RMP). Most OBGYNs are authorized to perform abortions but other doctors too can obtain the requisite certification. An MTP may only be performed in facility approved by the government for the purpose.

The sooner the better

If you are sure you want an abortion, then medically and legally speaking, the earlier you get it done the better. Within the first 12 weeks you need the approval of only one registered medical practitioner to go ahead with the abortion. After 12 weeks you will need the approval of two RMPs.

If you get the MTP done within the first 9 weeks after your last period, you can have a medical abortion, which means you just need to take some medicines prescribed by the RMP and have a follow up checkup to make sure that the abortion was successful. There is no surgery necessary in this case.

If your 9 week deadline has passed don’t panic

MTPs are legal in India until the 20th week. So even after 9 weeks a surgical abortion can be performed. The good thing about this surgery is, it does not require you to stay in the hospital for more than a few hours.

There are two methods of surgical abortions. For pregnancies between 7 and 15 weeks vacuum aspiration is recommended. The procedure takes 10 to 15 minutes and then recovery a few hours. For pregnancies beyond 15 weeks dialation and evacuation is recommended. This procedure is more complex than vacuum aspiration but still does not usually require extended hospital stay.

Worried about how your partner or family will react?

If you are an adult of sound mental health, then you do not need anyone’s permission or consent to have an abortion. Your boyfriend or husband need not even be notified. You don’t have to tell anyone about it and your doctor cannot force you to. However an abortion obtained without the husband’s knowledge could be considered grounds for divorce.

Unmarried women are entitled to legal abortion in India

Even if you are unmarried you are entitled to an abortion in India, without anyone’s consent provided you are an adult of sound mental health.

If you are a minor, however, you will need the consent of your parent or legal guardian. It may be difficult to tell your parents about your pregnancy, but it is the only way to obtain a safe an legal abortion in India.

Many girls have suffered severe medical problems, including incomplete abortions, as a result of approaching illegal facilities that are often unhygienic and fraught with infections. The sooner you get an abortion done, the lesser the chances of complications, so please do not hesitate to tell your parents as soon as you know.

What are the restrictions by law?

Abortions in India can only be obtained from an RMP who can approve it only under the following conditions.

  1. The continuance of pregnancy poses a serious risk of physical injury to the woman.
  2. There is a significant risk of the child being born with genetic abnormalities or other serious handicaps.
  3. There is a risk of serious mental injury to the woman.

Conditions which are considered to be a justification of mental injury are:

  • If the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. Rape cases need to be reported by the doctor.
  • In case of married women, if the pregnancy is as a result of the failure of contraceptive methods.
  • If anything in the current or foreseeable environment of the woman could affect the mental health of the woman or cause her anguish if she proceeded with the pregnancy.

Fortunately, the third reason is vague and introduces flexibility and allows doctors to make abortions available to most women who need it

When is it difficult to get an abortion in India?

In India female foeticide is rampant. Doctors are liable for performing abortions that aid female foeticide. So doctors may refuse perform abortions if you have availed of sex determination tests.

In India pregnancies can be terminated only in the first 20 weeks. Pregnancies beyond 20 weeks may only be terminated with special permission from the courts.

Proposed improvements to MTP act

  1. Some rare congenital abnormalities can only be detected after 20 weeks putting both the mother and foetus at risk. Fortunately the MTP amendment bill of 2014 seeks to extend the legal period of abortions to 24 weeks.
  2. The requirement of approval from 2 registered medical practitioners may be difficult to obtain in places having a dearth of medical personnel. So the amendment proposes replacing ‘registered medical practitioners’ with ‘registered healthcare providers’.

  3. The MTP act specifies failure of contraceptive device as a valid reason for abortions only in married women. The amendment seeks to extend this consideration to unmarried women too.

Personally, I believe that women should be given complete freedom in deciding if they want an abortion and neither doctors nor family members should have the power to prevent it. Women deserve easy access to safe abortions and it is the job of the government to ensure that sufficient number of doctors and facilities are made available for the purpose. Given the prevalence of female foeticide in India some precautions need to be taken.

Image source: flickr, for representational purposes only.

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