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Abortion Laws And Restrictions On Women

Abortion is the termination of the pregnancy by the removal of a foetus or an embryo from the uterus resulting in its death. Abortion can be further divided into two categories. Type one is Spontaneous Abortion where an abortion is caused due to any complications during pregnancy and is totally unintentional, also termed as miscarriages.

The second type is Induced Abortion which can be further divided into Therapeutic Abortion that is induced to preserve the health of the mother when it is believed that it would put the mother’s life in danger or when the specialists believe that the child will be disabled when given birth. The other sub-type is Elective Abortion when the unborn child[1] is aborted due to any other reason.

Abortion has always been a controversial topic as there are many contrasting notions regarding it. Everyone faces a conundrum while giving a thought to whether a mother has the right to decide the termination of her pregnancy or whether the unborn child has the right to life. I feel that this situation arises because various aspects overpower the right to abortion like the stigma attached to it, ethics, morality and traditions. Every religion gravely reprimands abortion as a practice as they believe that abortion is equivalent to murder. Therefore, it is important to classify the stage where an abortion should be considered as murder.

Christianity and Abortion:
As god is accountable for creating life then he alone has the power and authority to take a life. Hence, Christianity believes that life is a sacred blessing of god that shall be preserved, protected and respected at all costs. From the primary moment of his or her existence, a being should be recognised as having the rights of an individual – among that is that the inalienable right of every unimpeachable person to life.[1]

The bible classifies the term The Sanctity of Life which teaches that murder is forbidden in nature and that humans are created in the image of the almighty. The followers of this religion were reminded by Jesus that each and every person is precious to god to an extent that the almighty has counted each strand of hair on their head. Jesus in his important preaching taught the importance of loving your neighbour and the Christians tend to criticize abortion as they incline on believing that the unborn child or the foetus or the embryo can also be considered as the neighbour.

Therefore, the catholic church holds this pro-life notion and contemplate abortion as a sin because they believe that life begins at conception and terminating that life is wrong at all given circumstances. It mainly disagrees with this concept and takes an absolutist stance as it goes against the commandment that states, thou shall not kill,[2]. They also believe that abortion is an act that goes against what nature intended or the natural law. Therefore, the catholic church would argue on behalf of the unborn child as they feel that it should be loved and taken care for.

Islam and Abortion:
Muslims consider abortion or the termination of pregnancy as Haram (impermissible). They believe the more advanced the pregnancy, the greater the sin. The Islamic view also gives high priority to the sanctity of life. The holy Quran[1] states that Whosoever has spared the life of a soul, it is like he has spared the life of all people. Whosoever has killed a soul, it is like he has murdered the entire mankind.[2]

The Quran does not lucidly refer abortion as a term, but the scholars believe that it provides guidance which can be properly applied in such situations the only exception which is accepted by all the schools of Muslim law to permit the termination of the pregnancy after 120 days of pregnancy is if the by continuing the pregnancy the mother’s life will be in grave danger. Protection of the mother’s life is given higher importance as it is considered to be lesser of two evils that is mentioned in the Sharia[3] as a general principle to choose the lesser of two evils.

The reasons why abortion in this case is considered a lesser evil is because the mother is considered to be the originator of the foetus who has a well-established life and family. Therefore, by letting the mother die would also kill the foetus in most cases.

Kill not your offspring for the fear of poverty, it is he who provides for them and for you. Surely killing them is a great sin.[4] The Quran states it very clearly that the termination of pregnancy must not be performed because of the incapacity or the fear of the family as Allah should be trusted because he is the one who looks after everything.

Similarly, other texts ban abortion on other grounds like financial, social or issues relating to the mother like unplanned pregnancy which will affect the mother’s life negatively on the basis of her career or education.

Abortion Laws in India:
The termination of pregnancy or abortion is legal in India under multiple situations. The termination can be executed until 24 weeks of pregnancy or more depending upon the discretion of the court.

Before 1971, Abortion was criminalized except in the cases where it was essential to save the life of the mother under section 312 of the Indian penal code, 1860[1] where whoever is the cause of the miscarriage was sentenced three years in prison or fine. And the women who terminated her pregnancy had to face seven years of imprisonment or fine.

India started to deliberate a legal framework on abortion law by instating a committee led by Shantilal Shah in 1964 when the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was on alert due to high rates of abortion. The committee carried out an intensive review of the traditional, legal and medical aspects. It also recommended on legalization of abortion to prevent wastage of the mental health of the women. Recommendations created by this committee were undertaken and were introduced within the parliament in 1970 under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill.

A bill in august 1971 was passed as the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act[2].After the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act,1971 many things were specified like who can terminate the pregnancy and where can pregnancy be terminated. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy- Rules and Regulations, 2003 provide the details of training and certification requirements for a provider, it also proclaims documentation and reporting requirements for safe and legal termination of pregnancy.

End-Notes:
  1. Section 312. Causing miscarriage. —Whoever voluntarily causes a woman with child to miscarry, shall, if such miscarriage be not caused in good faith for the purpose of saving the life of the woman, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both; and, if the woman be quick with child, shall be punished with imprison­ment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation. —A woman who causes herself to miscarry, is within the meaning of this section.
  2. Medical Termination of Pregnancy,1971 -https://tcw.nic.in/Acts/MTP-Act-1971.pdf
  3. Qur’an: BBC - Religions - Islam: The Qur'an
  4. Qur’an 5:32 :https://quran.com/5/32
  5. Sharia: BBC - Religions - Islam: Sharia
  6. Qur’an 17:32 : https://www.islamicstudies.info/tafheem.php?sura=17&verse=31&to=40
  7. Catechism of the Catholic Church https://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm
  8. (Exodus 20:13) https://biblehub.com/exodus/20-13.htm
  9. Foetus and embryo both are classified as unborn child.

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