Ethical Issues concerning Legislation in Late-Term Abortions in India
Late-term abortions (after 20 weeks of gestation) are an issue of immense debate in India, where the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 permits abortions only up to 20 weeks of gestation. In special situations, such as pregnancy arising out of rape especially in the case of minors and the late diagnosis of congenital anomalies, there are no clear guidelines on the legal protocol that is to be followed, often resulting in a lack of consistency in terms of legal decision-making, as well as undue prolongation of legal procedures. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act prohibits late-term abortions on the basis of personhood and viability of the foetus, to reduce sex-selective abortions and as it considers such abortions to be unsafe. However, a legal prohibition of late-term abortions does not prevent them, and this has led to a surge in the number of illegal, unsafe abortions that are detrimental to the health of women. There is also physical, mental and financial distress to women who are forced to continue their pregnancy, coupled with a lack of governmental support for the same. In comparison of India’s abortion laws with Singapore’s, which are more liberal, and Philippines, which are more restrictive, liberalisation of abortion laws appears to have a better outcome in reducing the incidence of unsafe abortions. This paper argues that the way forward is to liberalise the laws in terms of not only extending the gestational limit to at least 24 weeks but also making exceptions allowing no gestational limit in special cases that warrant them, such as rape victims and late foetal anomalies. The laws, drafted and implemented in consultation with medical professionals in the field, must also be lucid and not leave any room for misinterpretation by courts and health care providers.
KeywordsAbortion Legislation Late-term abortions India MTP Act 1971 Ethics of abortion
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.
The views expressed in this paper are personal views and not the views of the institution to which the author is affiliated.
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