What is an unsafe abortion?

Unsafe abortion occurs when a pregnancy is terminated either by persons lacking the necessary skills or in an environment that does not conform to minimal medical standards, or both. Additional information can be found here.

What is a safe abortion?

Abortions are safe if they are done with a method recommended by WHO that is appropriate to the pregnancy duration and if the person providing or supporting the abortion is trained. Such abortions can be done using tablets (medical abortion) or a simple outpatient procedure.

What is a trimester?

The length of the pregnancy is divided into three periods of three months each, where there is a ‘first’ (0-12 weeks), ‘second’ (13-27 weeks) and ‘third’ trimester (28 weeks until birth).

Is abortion legal in India?

Yes. Abortion is legal in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, until 20 weeks under certain conditions.

What are the conditions under which I can get an abortion?

Conditions under which a woman can request an abortion:

  • Continuation of the pregnancy would involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or cause grave injury to her physical or mental health.
  • Substantial risk that the child, if born, would be seriously handicapped due to physical or mental abnormalities.
  • Pregnancy is caused by rape (presumed to constitute grave injury to mental health).
  • Pregnancy is due to the failure of contraception in a married woman or her husband (presumed to cause grave injury to her mental health).
Who can provide abortion safely and legally?

All Registered Medical Practitioners (RMPs) are allowed to perform an abortion in India. The conditions under which a provider qualifies as an RMP can be found here.

What is medication abortion?

Medication abortion is a non-surgical, non-invasive method for termination of pregnancy by using a drug or a combination of drugs. The drugs that are normally used are a combination of Mifepristone and Misoprostol (combipack).

What is difference between an emergency contraception and medical abortion?

Emergency contraception refers to methods of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse. These are recommended for use within 5 days but are more effective the sooner they are used after the act of intercourse. Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by preventing or delaying ovulation and they do not induce an abortion.

Medical abortion, on the other hand, is used for terminating a pregnancy.

Is medication abortion legal in India?

Yes, medication abortion is legal in India until 9 weeks of pregnancy.

Whose permission/consent do I need for an abortion?

As per the MTP Act, only a woman’s consent is needed for an abortion, assuming she is above the age of 18 and not mentally ill.

Only girls under the age of 18 and those who are mentally ill need the consent of a guardian (individual having the care of the person in question).

Do I need the medical opinion of a doctor to get an abortion?

Yes. A woman requires the opinion of one RMP between 1-12 weeks (first trimester) and of two RMPs between 12-20 weeks (second trimester).

Can a woman demand an abortion at a medical facility?

No. Abortion is not the right of a woman in India. For her to get an abortion, as per the law, the opinion of an RMP made in good faith is needed between 1-12 weeks of pregnancy and that of two RMPs between 12-20 weeks of a pregnancy.

What is sex determination? What is sex selection?

Sex determination is the determination of the sex of the foetus with diagnostic techniques. Sex selection refers to the practice of using medical techniques to choose the sex of the offspring. The term “sex selection” encompasses a number of practices including selecting embryos for transfer and implantation following IVF, separating sperm, and selectively terminating a pregnancy.

Is sex determination/sex selection legal in India?

Both sex determination and sex selection are illegal in India. They are illegal under the Pre- Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994. As per the law, determination is prohibited before and after conception. No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure, can communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method. The complete act can be found at http://chdslsa.gov.in/right_menu/act/pdf/PNDT.pdf.

It is important to note that the vast majority of abortions are not sex selective. According to UNFPA, 80-90% of abortions in India are in the first trimester, when the sex of the foetus is difficult to determine.

Does the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 prohibit girls under 18 from getting an abortion?

No. The POCSO Act does not prohibit access to or the provision of an abortion to a girl under the age of 18. It does however, mandate the provider to inform the police about the case.

Does a medical provider have to wait for any medico-legal procedures before performing an abortion for a minor (age less than 18 years)?

No. The provider should provide the services and inform the police about the case. Rule 5(3) of the POCSO Rules states that “no medical practitioner, hospital or other medical facility centre rendering emergency medical care to a child shall demand any legal or magisterial requisition or other documentation as a pre-requisite to rendering such care.”

When was the MTP Act amended last?

The MTP Act, 1971 was amended in 2002. The Amendment decentralised the registration of abortion facilities from the state level to the district-level committees. It also legalised provision of medical abortion outside of a facility up to seven weeks of pregnancy.

What are the proposed amendments to the MTP Act?

Following a consultative process with key stakeholders, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) drafted the MTP (Amendment) Bill 2014, which proposed the following changes:

  • Allow abortion on request of the woman until 12 weeks.
  • Increase the gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for rape survivors.
  • Remove the gestation limit in case of foetal abnormalities.
  • Reduce the number of physician opinions required from two to one in the second trimester.
  • Remove the word “married” from the clause on contraceptive failure as a condition for seeking abortion.
  • Expand the base of legal medical abortion providers to include Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) practitioners, Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs), and nurses.
Is abortion allowed after 20 weeks of pregnancy?

Abortion is only allowed after 20 weeks to save the life of a pregnant woman as per Section 5 of the MTP Act. You can see the provisions in detail here.

In cases of rape survivors whose pregnancies have crossed the 20-week limit, or women whose foetuses have been diagnosed with anomalies – these women have appealed at the High Courts and Supreme Court to terminate their pregnancies. While the decisions of the courts have not been consistent, the courts usually empanel a medical board which advises the court on the medical decision, based on which the court allows or denies the permission to terminate a pregnancy.

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