After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its 50-year-old Roe v. Wade ruling, which now denies women a constitutional right to abortion, protests erupted across the country. The decision, according to President Joe Biden, was a “tragic mistake” that set the nation back 150 years.
The decision came after a report leaked in early May that the U.S. Supreme Court may overturn Roe v. Wade. Friday’s ruling has shed light on abortion laws in other nations, particularly India, where abortion has been permitted under certain conditions for the past 50 years.
Let’s take a look at abortion law in India as public outrage grows over the U.S. Supreme Court decision.
What is the legal situation in India?
If it was not done in good faith to save the woman’s life, Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code makes it a crime to intentionally cause a miscarriage.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, a law passed by Parliament in 1971, gave licensed medical professionals permission to perform abortions in specific predetermined situations. Physicians who performed abortions in accordance with the Act were exempt from prosecution under Section 312 IPC.
Women do not have an unrestricted right to abortion under the law. Under specific conditions and to a certain extent, abortion is permissible based on medical opinion.
Reforms to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act
Since the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act was passed in 1971, abortion has been permitted in India under a variety of circumstances. The Act was amended to give women access to safe and authorized abortion procedures.
To allow the use of the new medication abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol at that time, the abortion law was briefly amended in 2002.
The MTP Act of 1917 was finally revised in 2021. On March 16, 2021, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 received presidential assent in Rajya Sabha. On March 17, 2020, Lok Sabha passed the bill.
All women can choose to terminate their pregnancies up to 20 weeks if their doctor recommends it. However, special categories of women such as survivors of sexual abuse, minors, rape victims, incest, and disabled women can apply for termination up to 24 weeks.
If a medical board of medical specialists decides that there is a fetal disability, there is also no gestational maximum for abortion.
Preconception Techniques and Prenatal Diagnosis Act, 1994
To prevent abuse of the MTP Act and to ensure that abortions “are not carried out on the whims and fancies of a woman or a couple,” the PCPNDT (Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques) Act was passed in 1994.
While a woman can have an abortion without her spouse’s consent, her spouse cannot force her to have an abortion.
Current status in the U.S.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion restrictions were immediately implemented in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.
At least 13 states either already have legislation in place that outright bans abortions or will do so shortly.
Unless the procedure is performed in the case of a medical emergency, Missouri punishes anyone who performs an abortion with five to 15 years in prison.