The Womb Affair – Should Women Seek Permission To Have a Right Over Their Own Bodies?

Abortion Laws India - Should We Seek Permission To Have Control Over Our Own Bodies?

The basic idea behind the independence movement of India was to be able to live ‘freely’. And by ‘freely’ I mean the freedom to take one’s own decisions regarding one’s own life. Everyone became independent, but one section still fights for the independence – the women of India. Don’t tag us a ‘raging feminist’ here please, even though we are. We are only presenting facts here. As you read on you will agree (or not agree) with us that women today still feel caged and no matter how graceful they think of themselves, there are times when they are not given the position to take their own call, in matters of abortion for instance.

One would agree that abortion is a personal affair. If men don’t seek permission of the law to impregnate a woman, then the women folk too should be allowed to decide on the pregnancy keeping aside the law of the country. But you see India is a funny country! We don’t want to develop. We just want to consider unimportant matters for the longest of hours and decide nothing of them while ignoring the most important and delicate matters for years!

This is exactly what happened to the MTP Act. MTP stands for Medical Termination of Pregnancy. In 2014, a bill for MTP was raised to pass according to which the legally permissible period for termination of pregnancy was to be increased from 20 to 24 weeks. You would be surprised to know that this bill was kept pending all these years! India has time to do anything and everything other than find time for its own women and the question of their safe livelihood.

According to the so-called experts of the medical field, many congenital illnesses and defects of the fetus get detected after 18 – 20 weeks of pregnancy which leaves the couple with very little time to decide on the termination of the pregnancy, if at all. During the last 5 years, the Supreme Court of India has dealt with several requests and thankfully it has permitted most women with abnormalities over 20 week pregnancies to terminate. Still, why should they have to ask for permission at all?

Approximately a good 2-3% of the entire birth rate suffers severe congenital or chromosomal abnormality. The present situation of the law only allows abortions beyond 20 weeks if the woman would surely die if the pregnancy is not terminated. The current interpretation lacks constitutional framework as it doesn’t provide for the several fetal abnormalities discovered after 20 weeks and it doesn’t recognize the physical and mental health and well-being of the woman as part of the expression ‘life’. Sadly, the physical and mental trauma that a woman goes through in such a situation isn’t considered a ground enough for abortion post-20 week’s pregnancy under the Section 5 of the said Act.

The delay in the amendment of the MTP Act is forcing many to move the Supreme Court for permission to end their pregnancies that are beyond the so-called legally permissible termination period of 20 weeks. A vacation bench of Justices D.Y Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul decided to hear the plea of Sharmishta Chakraborty, a Kolkata based lady seeking permission to abort her 25 week fetus with congenital defect, directing a medical board constituted by the West Bengal government to file a report on the medical condition of the lady and her fetus.

On Friday, the Supreme Court of India said that the legally permissible period of 20 weeks must be stretched to allow termination of pregnancy beyond the period mentioned in the MTP Act. Also, the quality of life of a woman after pregnancy should also be considered while deciding her plea of abortion. The bench has asked the medical board to file its report by 29th June’17. The bench would then decide on Sharmishta Chakraborty’s plea for aborting her 25 week old fetus.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and might not necessarily reflect the view of Yo! Vizag.

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