Since the US Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion, it has sparked debate on one of the most divisive and contentious issues in American politics. Meanwhile, many people point out that abortion was legalised in India 50 years ago. In connection with this, a vintage Indian abortion advertisement is making the rounds on social media.
The law in India does not grant women an unrestricted right to abortion. Abortion is legal under certain conditions and to a certain extent based on a medical opinion.
The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, passed by Parliament in 1971, authorised licenced medical professionals to perform abortions in certain predetermined situations. Section 312 of the IPC exempted doctors who performed legal abortions from prosecution.
Following the amendment in 2021, terminating a pregnancy up to 20 weeks will only require the medical advice of one doctor. Prior to that, a pregnancy could be terminated after 12 weeks on the advice of a single doctor. After the 2021 amendment, only pregnancies between 20 and 24 weeks will require the opinions of two doctors. However, a four-member Medical Board must agree in order to terminate a pregnancy at any time due to “substantial foetal abnormalities.”
When the law was first passed in 1971, the legal limit for abortion was set at 20 weeks. With the 2021 amendment, which went into effect on September 24, 2021, abortion is now legal for women in certain circumstances up to 24 weeks. Furthermore, if a Medical Board determines that “substantial foetal abnormalities” exist, there will be no upper limit on abortion after the 2021 amendment. However, Section 312 of the Indian Penal Code makes causing a miscarriage on purpose a criminal offence.