Vol. 4, Issue 2 (2018)
Abortion law in India: The debate on its legality
Author(s): Punam Kumari Bhagat, Pratish Sinha
Abstract: Despite 30 years of liberal legislation, the majority of women in India still lack access to safe abortion care. This paper critically reviews the history of abortion law and policy in India since the 1960s and research on abortion service delivery. Amendments in 2002 and 2003 to the 1971 Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, including devolution of regulation of abortion services to the district level, punitive measures to deter provision of unsafe abortions, rationalisation of physical requirements for facilities to provide early abortion, and approval of medical abortion, have all aimed to expand safe services. Proposed amendments to the MTP Act to prevent sex-selective abortions would have been unethical and violated confidentiality, and were not taken forward. Continuing problems include poor regulation of both public and private sector services, a physician-only policy that excludes mid-level providers and low registration of rural compared to urban clinics; all restrict access. Poor awareness of the law, unnecessary spousal consent requirements, contraceptive targets linked to abortion, and informal and high fees also serve as barriers. Training more providers, simplifying registration procedures, de-linking clinic and provider approval, and linking policy with up-to-date technology, research and good clinical practice are some immediate measures needed to improve women’s access to safe abortion care.