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Q. Women’s right and issue of abortion: In the backdrop of Supreme Court’s recent verdict on abortion, comment on the issue of women’s right on her body.
Mar 03, 2017 Related to : GS Paper-2

Ans :

Introduction-

Recently the Supreme Court of India refused to allow a woman to abort her 26-week-old unborn baby with Down Syndrome. The recent decision is considered as setback to its progressive women-centric ruling pronounced in January. In January ruling the court has relaxed the 20-week ceiling on legal abortion to allow a woman to abort her 24-week baby with anencephaly, a life-threatening congenital defect where a baby is born without parts of the brain, skull and scalp.

Issues in present case-

Women requested court to allow aborting her 26-week-old unborn baby with Down Syndrome. Children with Down Syndrome, which is associated with characteristically flat facial appearances, have life-long mild to moderate disabilities due to impaired brain and physical growth and are predisposed to health problems like congenital heart defects, sleep apnea, and Alzheimer’s disease, among others.

Analysis of issue of abortion in India-

  • India’s Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act legalises abortions up to 20 weeks if there is threat to the mother’s life or her physical or mental health, or if the unborn baby has abnormalities, but many women end up using unsafe abortions methods due lack of awareness. 
  • Keeping in mind the limitations of the abortion law, the Union health ministry has proposed amendments to relax the cut-off period for legal abortions to 24 weeks and increase the number of skilled providers. The new amendments set no upper limit for abortions if the baby has substantial foetal abnormalities, which are yet to be defined in the rules that will be drafted after the bill is approved by Parliament. 
  • Whether Down syndrome makes the cut as a substantial foetal abnormality is not yet known, but the right to abort is as much a rights issue as a medical one. Unwanted children get no state support, and neither do children with disabilities, who have to be cared for all their lives by their parents, usually the mother.
  • Though abortion is legal in India, due to lack of awareness and legal restrictions, women tend to go for unsafe method of abortions, which are taking toll of 10 women in each day in India. 
  • Unsafe abortion is responsible for 8% of all maternal deaths in India, which makes it the third biggest cause of women dying of childbirth-related causes in the country. Hence strong laws and medical services that give women the right over their bodies can prevent hundreds of thousands of these deaths.
  • Women must have control over the decision-making related to her life and body and India must ensure the rights of women to have control on their body. And they must be allowed if they are desperate for abortion due to specific reason.  

Conclusion-

The legality with respect to abortion has been long debated in India. Unsafe methods of abortions are taking toll of about 10 women life in India. Excessive restriction on abortion issue have takes away rights of women. Hence with strong women centric law and superior medical facilities government must ensure rights of women.


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