"No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman
can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will
not be a mother."- Margaret Sanger
American Birth Control League (ACBL)
Over a century ago, abortion was made a crime across the world. The mother, as
well as the abortionist, could be punished in all cases except where abortion
had to be induced to save the life of the mother. At the dawn of the 21st
century, some countries began to recognize the equal status of women, while
other countries began to appreciate the dangers of unsafe abortion leading to
the liberalization and enactment of new abortion laws.
What Is Abortion?
Legally, abortion means the premature expulsion of the foetus from the mother's
womb at any time of pregnancy, before the full term of pregnancy is completed.
The word miscarriage is often used as a synonym with and equivalent to abortion.
Miscarriage signifies, in the strict medical sense, the expulsion of the foetus
from the womb within the first six weeks after conception. Spontaneous abortion
(also known as miscarriage) is the expulsion of an embryo or foetus due to
accidental trauma or natural causes before approximately the 24th week of
gestation.When abortion is induced it is called Medical Termination of
Abortion is one of the few health procedures that is legally regulated in most
countries, but this was not always the case.
Abortion is allowed in three broad
- Abortion on request with no requirement for justification;
- Based on common legal grounds and related indication; or
- Based on additional indications that are nonequivalent to a single legal
ground but could be interacted under multiple grounds.
Common legal grounds include abortion to save the women's life, to preserve the
women's health in case of rape, incest, foetal impairment, and for economic or
Road Map To Change In The System
It is a women's individual right, right to her life, to her liberty, and to the
pursuit of her happiness, that sanctions her right to have an abortion.
Years ago, the Right to Abortion was not permitted and it was strongly opposed
by society. The termination of pregnancy was termed to be a murderer of the
foetus. In the beginning, India was against abortion because abortion is
severely condemned in Vedic, Upanishads, later Puranic and Smriti literature.
With the change in time and technology Right to Abortion has been legally
sanctioned by most countries. In the case of Jane Roe v. Henry Wade by the US
Supreme Court, it held that a mother may abort her pregnancy for any reason, up
until the "point at which foetus becomes 'viable'".
In a landmark judgement of Suchita Srivastava & Another v Chandigarh
, the Supreme Court of India said that "There is no doubt that
a women's right to make a reproductive choice is also a dimension of personal
liberty under Article 21. It is important to note that the reproductive rights
can be exercised to procreate as well as abstain from procreating."
In the case of Niketa and Haresh Mehta, the Bombay High Court rejected their
plea for abortion of their 25th- week foetus with a congenital heart block, In
India Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) is allowed up to 20 weeks. This
sparked off a near-unanimous demand of reviewing the 38-year-old MTP Act of
After 50 years, MTP Amendment Act, 2021 was passed with certain amendments by
the Government of India including all women being allowed to seek safe abortion
services on grounds of contraceptive failure, increase in gestation limit to 24
weeks for special categories of women, and opinion of one provider required up
to 20 weeks of gestation.
Dawn Of New Laws
Abortion is justifiable only when it is done in good faith to save the life of
the women. The Supreme Court of India has said that the Right to Privacy is
implicit in Article 21 of the Constitution and the Right to Abortion can be read
from this right.
Many countries like Canada, Korea, China, Germany, France and several other
European countries have comparatively liberal laws on abortion. Canada goes to
the extent of not interfering with the issue at all and leaves it entirely to
the woman and her physician. A woman is perceived as having complete liberty
upon her person and the foetus is seen as a part of her body, acquiring the
status of person only after birth.
Korea permits abortion till 2 weeks but
spousal consent is mandatory for married women. The Abortion Act, 1967 of UK
permits abortion till 24 weeks but there is no upper limit if the pregnancy
poses threat to a women's life or if the foetus is likely to be born with a
severe physical or mental deformity.
Article 6(1) of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of life. Article 1 of the American
Declaration of Rights and Duties of Man and the Inter American Commission of
Human Rights says abortion is legalized until the first trimester.
Some countries place more severe restrictions on abortions. While El Salvador
and Chile endorsed a complete ban on abortions, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil
and a few others permit abortion only in the case of rape. Islamic countries
such as UAE and Tunisia have allowed abortions up to the upper limit of 120
weeks but most of the Muslim majority countries still have not legalized or have
The ability to give life is one of the greatest gifts given by God to women, but
isn't it a choice of a woman to control her body and decide if she wants to be a
mother or not? It is believed that every mother has a Right to Abortion, it is a
universal right. When abortion is a crime, women suffer along with their
families. While criminal abortion laws intend to prevent abortion, the reality
is they do not.
Instead, these laws increase the number of women and girls who
resort to unsafe abortion methods, risking death or injury as a result. States
must take steps to ensure access to appropriate healthcare services for women
and to eliminate such barriers to the provision of abortion services and that
lead women to resort to unsafe abortions, including eliminating unacceptable
delays in providing medical attention.
The dawn of the 21st century has come
with new hopes and promises for women with the enactment of friendly laws
keeping in mind the perils that women have to go through as well as the life of
- Rahin Bandyopadhyay's, "Women Rights, Human Rights" R. Cambray And Co. Pvt. Ltd, 1st Edition, 2010
- Dr. Ks Narayan Reddy, "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology", 4th Edition
- V.N. Shukla, "Constitution Of India", Eastern Book Company, 13th Edn., 2018
- Department of Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization (2003)
- 410 US 113 (1973)
- (2009) 14 SCR 989, (2009) 9 SCC 1
- Supreme Court Allows Abortion for 24-Week Abnormal Pregnancy
- Pratyush Saxena &
- Nikitha Susan Eapen