While it is legal to have an abortion in India, the fear of social stigma robs many women of that choice. Married women are routinely asked for their husband’s permission and unmarried women are routinely asked for their parents’ (read father’s) permission — even though such a consent is not required by law. All this leads many women to resort to illegal and unsafe abortions. A recent report estimated that as many as 10 million women have illegal abortion in India putting their health and lives at serious risk. We delve into the most common abortion myths to help clear the air around legal aspects and encourage women to claim what is legally theirs.
FACT: Any woman can have an abortion in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971). However, the law comes with a set of conditions such as the stipulation around the length of pregnancy, which occurred due to the failure of contraception in married couples.
FACT: There are actually two types of abortions — via pills and via surgery. The former involves a combination of two pills — Mifepristone and Misoprostol — that are to be taken within a span of three days and must be done within 10 weeks of the pregnancy. Surgical abortions are usually performed after seven weeks of the pregnancy.
FACT: Many believe that in order for a woman to have an abortion, she must have the permission of her parents or husband. But this is absolutely false — if you are an adult woman, you don’t legally need anyone’s permission.
FACT: Many movies have contributed to this myth — a woman realises she is (visibly!!!) pregnant and seeks out an abortion, which is carried out straight away. The reality, though, is different. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act allows an abortion only if the pregnancy has not exceeded 20 weeks.
FACT: Only qualified gynaecologists or Allopath doctors are allowed to perform abortions. All other doctors — Ayurvedic, Homeopath and Unani — should not be approached or be performing abortion procedures.