Is it wrong?
Manya puttar, I completely understand why you are so confused about abortion. It is indeed a very sensitive topic for most of us. Whenever we hear the word abortion - we are inundated by negative thoughts and emotions like ‘is it akin to taking a life’ or ‘does the foetus have a heartbeat’.
Puttar, blame apna Bollywood too for creating this confusion! Movies like Mimi, Kya Kehna, Salaam Namaste and many such movies where the heroine gets all emotional and cries, ‘Main apne bacche ko nahi marungi!’
Understandably so, not many people want to talk about it too; often because they do not have complete and factual information about abortion. You will be surprised that not many of us know that abortion is legal in our country. Did you know that? Well, if not, let me share some more details, puttar.
In India, abortion, also known as the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP), is a legal right for every woman, and that too since last 50 years, since 1971! In 2021, more changes were made to the law to improve women’s access to abortion.
Today, any woman, who is 18 years and above, married or unmarried, can get an abortion (upto 20 weeks/24 weeks of pregnancy) at any private or government hospital. She does not need anyone’s permission - yes, you heard it right puttar ji! Not even her partner or parents.
Now Manya beta, tell me something, if something is legal in our country, how can it be wrong? I am sure the medico-legal experts in our country must have legalised abortion after a lot of research and consideration. How can they permit something or make something legal if it is wrong?
Then what exactly is wrong?
You know what is wrong? Sex-selective abortion. We often confuse or link the term abortion with sex-selective abortion. In the former, the sex of the child is not considered before terminating the pregnancy. The reason for termination of pregnancy could either be contraception failure or foetal anomaly.
However, sex-selective abortion is when you terminate a pregnancy because of the gender of the child - usually a girl in India. If you ever go to get an ultrasound done, you will see a sign that reads, ‘We do not determine the gender of the child before birth. It is illegal.’
Now, Manya puttar, this is what is really wrong and illegal - sex-selective abortion
Next let’s come to your other question, which a lot of my readers ask me - does the ‘baby’ feel anything?
Does the ‘baby’ feel anything?
First things first, puttar, we do not use the word ‘baby’ for someone who has not taken birth yet. We call it a foetus. Just like a woman does not become a mother before a baby is born, foetus does not become a baby until it is born. Until the time it is inside a pregnant woman’s body, it’s called a foetus.
Now that I have cleared this huge misconception, let me come to your question.
Scientific and medical evidence suggests that a foetus does not feel any sensation, including pain, in the first few weeks of pregnancy. The part of the brain and the nervous system, which allows the ability to feel anything, including pain, starts developing after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Hence the upper limit of abortion in most countries is 24 weeks.
However, most abortions take place much before this time. Medical abortion, where pills are used to terminate a pregnancy, happens before 10 weeks of pregnancy. At this time, the foetus is as small as the size of a pea and cannot feel anything.
What about the ‘heartbeat’?
Now you may ask, what about the ‘heartbeat’ heard during an ultrasound? What is that?
Well, Manya beta, there is a sound. I did a lot of research on this too, puttar ji, and found out that ‘heartbeat’ is actually not a medically accurate term to use here because, according to doctors, the heart of an embryo/foetus is not developed at six weeks' gestation. So how can we listen to a ‘heartbeat’ during an ultrasound?
Scientists say that the activity measured on an ultrasound during the first few weeks of pregnancy is actually an electrical impulse, not a true heartbeat. At six weeks of gestation, valves of the heart don’t exist so the sound detected by ultrasound is an electrical impulse from an area which will become the future heart.
What’s more, it’s not until the eighth week, the group of cells that comprise a pregnancy are called a foetus. Prior to that, it's still considered an embryo. At this stage, and upto 24 weeks, there is still much development of cells left before a heart (or other organs) of foetus are formed. So next time someone tells you that a ‘baby’ has a ‘heartbeat’, please do not believe in it. And give them the gyaan that I am giving you.
After all the science, let’s answer your next question - is abortion a sin?
Is abortion a ‘sin’?
Puttar, sab se pehle let me tell you one thing, I do not believe in paap (or even punya). What I do believe in is right and wrong.
Let me ask you a question - isn’t the birth of the child considered auspicious and celebrated largely in our country? We Indians have so many functions (godh bharai, naamkaran, baptism etc) to mark this event, haina? But this can only be done when we are expecting the baby - physically, emotionally and mentally, and if we are ready for him/her or them.
But imagine a situation where a woman, who may be just 18 or 19 years of age, is studying and has plans for the future - get a good job, set up a home, travel around - but accidentally gets pregnant because of contraception failure!
Here, would she be happy about the baby’s arrival and her pregnancy? Should she sacrifice her future, her career and everything else because she got pregnant?
In this case, pregnancy is a mistake, and further continuing the pregnancy will be another huge mistake. It will be wrong. Isn’t it?
If science has provided us with a solution for such situations, via a scientific and medically safe method of abortion, which is also legal, then why not! Why should it be marred down by words like sin or paap?
Will we not be committing a bigger mistake (or in your words, bigger ‘sin’) by bringing a child to this world where the parents were not ready for him/her/them, neither financially nor emotionally or mentally?
So puttar, soch zara and next time if someone tries to project abortion as ‘paap’ or ‘sin’, you direct them to your Auntyji! Or, better still, share this article with them.
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model and names have been changed.