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The Contemporary Global Trends Of Safe And Legal Abortions

The 'right to live' or 'right to life' has been included in most of the constitutions across the globe. The 'right to life' includes the right to live with dignity and everything that entails, such as adequate nourishment, clothes, and housing, in addition to resources for learning, mixing with fellow humans and much more. A necessary requirement for enjoying the complete 'right to life', especially for a woman is to decide or to have the freedom to decide whether she wants to experience motherhood or not. It is rightly said that a mother is not the alone parent of a child, but indeed she is the one experiencing major changes; be it her body, hormones, health, professional or personal life.

Over the past fifty years various regions have witnessed an unquestionable trajectory towards the liberalization of abortion laws, primarily in nations with advanced economies. Some constituencies, however, continue to be vehemently opposed to abortion. Additionally, an increasing number of countries, especially autocracies, have resisted the expansion of women's reproductive rights in recent decades.

This article analyses a correlation of abortion laws on a global level that has not been addressed much freely in a lot of research. Moreover, this article also provides the data which is necessary to form an opinion accompanied with my own. Further, this piece lays out the resultant benefits of legalizing abortion on an international level providing it a place in conceptual jurisprudence.

The Recent Trends
The legal grounds for abortion are crucial for its safety. The likelihood of women with unintended pregnancies to terminate them legally and safely varies significantly upon where they live. Legally restricting this commonly observed practice does not reduce the rate at which it occurs. Instead, legal restrictions force women to get illegal abortions to escape stigma and prosecution, despite the health risks that illegal abortions frequently produce.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 73 million abortions occur worldwide each year. This equates to approximately 39 abortions per thousand women worldwide, a rate that has been nearly constant since 1990.

With increasing legal restrictions, the proportion of abortions considered "least safe" (i.e., performed by an unskilled practitioner using an unrecommended procedure) has been on the rise. It is pertinent to note that under 1% of abortions are unsafe in nations that allow abortion for any cause, compared to 31% in nations where abortion is illegal outright or authorized only for the purpose of saving the woman's life.[i] Where abortion is legal, complications are extremely rare.

When performed according to standards of excellence, just 0.5% of first-trimester abortions result in problems requiring being admitted to a hospital.[ii] As nations around the globe raised the grounds on which people can have access to reproductive healthcare services, the safety and efficacy of abortion care, as well as maternal survival, have improved.

Nevertheless, the safety of abortion procedures varies significantly between nations where abortion is normally allowed and nations where abortion is against the law[iii]. Data on how often illegal or legal but highly stigmatized procedures result in the need for care is highly fragile to be disclosed by giant governments but as mentioned above, nearly 7 of every 1,000 women of reproductive age in developing regions received postabortion care after an unsafe procedure in 2012.[iv]

This estimated data of 7 million women somehow fails to include women who are unable or simply too ashamed to seek care needed after an unsafe procedure, as well as those who die before reaching a source of care.

The Current Global Scenario Of Abortions

Even though the legal status of abortion varies significantly by region, a large percentage of countries allow abortion under certain conditions; and globally, two dozen countries outright prohibit abortion. The practice has no restrictions in most industrialized countries. Around a hundred countries have certain restrictions, often allowing abortion only in limited conditions, such as economic reasons, hazards to the woman's physical or mental health, or the presence of fetal anomalies.

Several international frameworks, including the UN Human Rights Committee; for example, in 2013, In Mellet v. Ireland, the UN Human Rights Committee recognized that criminalizing abortion breaches international human rights law and recommended Ireland to implement legal reform, including, if necessary, constitutional revision[v] and regional human rights courts, such as the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, have recognized abortion access as a human right. 179 states signed a program of action in Cairo in 1994, which included an agreement to avoid unsafe abortion.

In 1967, the WHO identified unsafe abortion as a public health issue for the first time and in 2003 it issued technical as well as policy guidelines, including the recommendation that states implement abortion laws to protect women's health.

Coming to a significant data of various prominent nations; the global abortion legal trends have been towards liberalization. Since 2000, thirty-eight nations' abortion laws have changed, with all but one-Nicaragua-expanding the legal basis on which women can receive abortion services. Argentina and Thailand have legalized abortions with specified gestational limits in 2020; Mexico and South Korea have decriminalized abortion; and New Zealand has eased its abortion guidelines.

Colombia has legalized abortion on request up to twenty-four weeks of conception. Although most countries have taken measures to broaden the criteria for abortion, multiple nations, especially Honduras and the United States, are tightening restrictions. [vi]

After analyzing all this critically acclaimed data, the question arises that Should poorer countries have more restrictive laws than wealthier countries?

In my opinion, women living in the former would be doubly disadvantaged: Not only would women living in poorer, restrictive countries be less likely to have a safe legal abortion to begin with, but they would also be less likely to receive needed Postabortion care because of limited national health budgets and relatively weak health systems.

A Critical Review Of Indian Abortion Policies And Related Lacunae

In India, several laws relate, directly or indirectly, to abortion. "Before the enactment of a special law on abortion, sections 312 to 316 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860" [vii], all forms of abortion were criminalized except to save the life of the pregnant woman.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 allows women to have abortions within the twentieth week if maintaining the pregnancy would endanger the women's mental or physical well-being or if there is a significant chance of foetal "abnormalities." This provision, however, comes with a few caveats.

Multiple abortion laws were enacted for a variety of purposes. Some were designed to protect young girls from sexual assault, while others were developed to make abortion more accessible to women who qualify. However, in certain circumstances, adolescents who undergo abortions can fall under both sets of laws, and this leads to inconsistencies and conflicts[viii].

An adolescent girl seeking an abortion is believed to be someone who survives of rape or penetrative sexual abuse, and the medical professional is required to report this to the police. There are numerous evident irregularities in cases of confidentiality and an absence of clarity on when a doctor can conduct abortions on adolescents without risking criminal charges.

Having a sexual intercourse with an adolescent girl is a felony under the POCSO Act, even if it is consensual; the law does not accept an adolescent's capacity to give consent to sexual activities and consequently eliminates the possibility of voluntary sex between persons under the age of 18[ix]. As a result, if a pregnant adolescent girl contacts a doctor requesting an abortion, the doctor is required to report the girl to the authorities as a victim of sexual assault, even if she refuses.[x] This provision of mandatory reporting is tremendously problematic.

In my opinion, the legal anomalies have major implications for adolescent access to legal and secure abortion. Girls in India may choose not to seek a legal abortion or resort to unsafe abortions in order to escape the legislation's mandatory reporting requirement or if they are unable to gain authorization from their guardian.

The severe criminal penalties involving unlawful abortion, as well as the uncertain legal framework, may discourage medical professionals from performing abortions, even when it is legal.[xi] As per some reports, half of all girls in the nation are sexually active at the age of 18, and nearly one-fifth are sexually active by the age of fifteen. As a result, adolescent females must have a sound and legal access to safe abortion services, knowledge, and counselling.

Personal Opinion And Conclusion
While we emphasize upon the established global perspective of pregnancy termination and divide the society into pro and anti-abortion sections, we often forget that the actual part of the society which is being affected by all this is the woman herself. We attempt to address the worldwide perspectives on abortion, but we fail to focus on the issues that cause this situation into a problem, we fail to focus on the abortion stigma, and practical limits on reproductive freedom which must be provided to a woman as her "right to live".

The legal standing of abortion is a crucial component of women's capacity to access safe abortion services. Globally, a trend towards abortion law liberalization has emerged, driven by public view as well as human rights concerns. Nonetheless, women continue to face major challenges to abortion access, particularly gaps in abortion law enforcement and procedural restrictions that stand in preventing the provision of abortion services. Classifying countries and their development along with a legality continuum is a first step towards determining how many women qualify for legal and safe abortions. Even if they are successfully adopted, additional legal grounds for abortion do not imply increased availability.

Hence, the availability and access of the choice to terminate pregnancy is important. The option to choose between whether a woman wants to experience motherhood or not is important, and the availability of safe, secure and legal abortion service is important.

  1. Ganatra, Global, regional, and subregional classification of abortions by safety, 2010–14: estimates from a Bayesian hierarchical model, Lancet, 2017,
  2. Meckstroth KR and Paul M, First-trimester aspiration abortion, in: Paul M et al., eds., Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancy: Comprehensive Abortion Care, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2009, pp. 136–137.
  3. Singh S and Maddow-Zimet I, Facility-based treatment for medical complications resulting from unsafe pregnancy termination in the developing world, 2012: a review of evidence from 26 countries, BJOG, 2016
  4. Singh S and Maddow-Zimet I, Facility-based treatment for medical complications resulting from unsafe pregnancy termination in the developing world, 2012: a review of evidence from 26 countries, BJOG, 2016
  5. CRR, Breaking Ground, 2018: Treaty Monitoring Bodies on Reproductive Rights, New York: CRR, 2018
  6. Population Division, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Population Prospects: the 2019 Revision, 2019
  7. Government of India. Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, Act 45 of 1860. Delhi: GoI; 1860 Oct 6
  8. Satish M. Gender and Nation: In defense of the victim. Indianexpress. com 2017 Dec
  9. Ministry of Law and Justice, Govt of India. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
  10. Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University. An Analysis of Mandatory Reporting under the POCSO Act and its Implications on the Rights of Children, 2018 Jun
  11. Kumar R, Kumar M. Teenage girls' health development: Nutrition, mental and physical growth. New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications; 2009.

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