Reported By: Himani Chandna
Edited By: Oindrila Mukherjee
Last Updated: March 18, 2023, 10:46 IST
Last year, the SC strengthened abortion laws in India by allowing an unmarried woman to terminate her pregnancy within the 20 to 24-week timeline provided under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. (Representational image: Reuters/File)
Maharashtra recorded the highest number of abortions with the country recording over 11 lakh abortions in the last year. Between March 2021 and April 2022, Maharashtra registered the highest at 1.8 lakh followed by Tamil Nadu at 1.14 lakh cases and West Bengal at 1.08 lakh cases, shows government data.
The data showed that the lowest number of abortions were recorded in Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
According to the ministry of health and family welfare, which presented this data in the Rajya Sabha on March 14, states and union territories reported 11,44,634 abortion cases – spontaneous and induced – in the last financial year.
Spontaneous abortion is the natural loss of pregnancy before twenty weeks of gestation, which can also be called “miscarriage” whereas induced abortion is the intentional medical or surgical termination of pregnancy.
A report by the United Nations Population Fund shows that 67 percent abortions in India between 2007 and 2011 were classified as unsafe, varying widely across the states from 45 percent to 78 percent.
Last year, the Supreme Court strengthened the abortion laws in India by allowing an unmarried woman to terminate her pregnancy within the 20 to 24 week timeline provided under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act. The ministry has been working on expanding access to abortion services under the Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC) programme.
Expectations after strengthening the MTP Act
While the government may not fully reflect the real incidence of abortions taking place in the country, the estimates by policy research institute Guttmacher reported a large incidence in India.
The report estimated that from 2015 to 2019, there were 4,85,00,000 pregnancies annually. Of these, 2,15,00,000 pregnancies were unintended and 1,66,00,000 ended in abortion. In India, abortion is legal on broad social or economic grounds.
However, with the strengthening of the MTP Act, the central government expects more abortions in a legalised manner and in the organised sector.
“Legalising MTP has helped reduce maternal mortality rates, prevent unsafe abortions and address the issue of unwanted pregnancies,” said Dr Rujul Jhaveri, consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, NHRCC Children’s Hospital in Mumbai.
Jhaveri said it was essential to raise awareness among women, especially those from rural areas, about their reproductive rights and the legal provisions for MTP.
“The Indian MTP Act is perhaps one of the most liberal in the world, where a woman can terminate pregnancy under the mental distress clause and by herself without anyone else’s signature (unless the person is a minor),” said Dr Shivani Sachdev Gour, a gynaecologist and IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) expert. “Confidentiality is strictly maintained and every case is reported to the Government of India. A recent amendment to the Act was to liberalise the law further.”
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